What happened to the flow of bulletins you may well ask. Well after a fantastic break in South Africa (during which I even visited their Worcester, set amongst vineyards and growing areas but labeled ‘Worcester – Care Capital of South Africa’, I have returned to a massive catch up but also some good positive news and actions. The net result is that I believe we are now making serious progress as a LEP.
Meeting with BIS National
On day 1 after my break, Paul Sampson and I had a very positive meeting with BIS National colleagues, updating them on the work and priorities of the LEP to date, together with some of the frustrations and hurdles to be overcome. We received warm support and encouragement and it is clear that both BIS and CLG see their role as keeping close to and supporting the LEPs. That is good news which we welcome.
Growing Places Fund
Government, via CLG, has recently announced a £500 million fund to cover all LEP regions. The allocation has been apportioned across the country in relation to measures of population and of deprivation and our part of that amounts to £3.67m. Whilst this may appear low, you should also note that part of the ‘northern districts’ allocation is included in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP allocation to which they also belong. 98% of the allocation is for capital works and 2% for revenue costs, with the emphasis on infrastructure projects that will accelerate the development of employment or housing facilities. However, whilst the fund is greatly welcomed, the time frame for making applications against it is extremely tight with the full application needing to be completed before Christmas. In effect this means that only ‘shovel ready’ projects that are well advanced in planning terms need apply. Challenging but good news.
South Worcestershire Development Plan
The Business Board of the LEP was charged with carrying out a review of the SWDP proposals during the consultation period which is just coming to an end. Their priority was to ensure that sufficient future employment land is included in the plan at locations that will attract companies to expand in South Worcestershire or to inwardly invest in and move to the county with the creation of new jobs and wealth. In addition the LEP has a responsibility to provide a business view on associated housing, infrastructure and other community facilities that will help attract business to our region. With the assistance of an independent planning advisor, the LEP Board has completed its exercise and whilst generally supporting the plan, it has pointed to greater need and some key locations that should be added.
LEP Director and Secretariat
Since inception the LEP has needed administrative support in being able to operate effectively. The County Council has kindly made some time available through Paul Sampson and Jane Ridgley, the Chamber of Commerce has donated time via Gary Woodman, and a number of businesses, notably Thomas Vale, have also been generous in providing support, all of which we are most grateful for. However it has been accepted for a while that we need a more dedicated secretariat support led by a senior executive. I am delighted to advise you therefore that the LEP Board approved a proposal to appoint Gary Woodman as Executive Director of the Board on a half time basis. The local government family has agreed to fund such cost for the next six months at least. With Gary now formally on board, we will appoint a further officer and a secretary/PA in the near future, to be partly funded through the County Council and partly from Government funding already allocated. We will also be seeking an independent office location and hope to put all such arrangements in place before Christmas, which should allow the work of the LEP to focus on the key strategic issues that will truly make a difference and bring jobs and prosperity to the County.
Proposed LEP Conference
At the time of writing, the LEP Board is planning a Conference early in the new year at which we will be reporting on progress against our priorities and seeking the views of both business and the local authorities. In many ways it will be a feedback to those businesses that attended the early meetings of the shadow LEP held at the Racecourse, but we hope to attract many more. Watch this space for details.
JLR Supply Chain re i54 New Engine Plant
The inaugural meeting of the West Midlands LEPs has been held in this regard with a number of actions re Jaguar Landrover identified. We need to further formalize the representation of the Worcestershire LEP on this working party and to include a supply chain representative or two.
Future Events and Dates
Wed 23rd Nov – Inward Investment working group meeting at County Hall
Tues 29th Nov – Place Shaping Group meeting at One Creative, Worcester
Wed 14th Dec – LEP Network meeting – London
Wed 14th Dec – Low Carbon Economies meeting – House of Commons
Thurs 5th Jan – LEP Board Meeting
Tues 10th Jan – 2012 Olympics LEP event at Sixways