As we approach the Christmas and New Year period it is a time for reflection on where we are and where we are seeking to get to. National and international economic news hardly gets better but amidst all the gloom in the economy it is some comfort to see Worcestershire’s employment figures holding up and even mildly bucking the national trend. No credit (yet) to LEP achievements but at least we are holding our own.
Behind the scenes I also take comfort from a few encouraging LEP initiatives that will flow through to the wellbeing of the county in the foreseeable future. On the green energy front, we have successfully supported the creation of a new Anaerobic Digester Plant near Fladbury through the planning process and work should start in the Spring. Not only is this a cracking example of recycling green waste from the food growing industry into the production of electricity, heat, carbon dioxide (to enhance greenhouse growing) and residue compost, but it will create jobs both directly and indirectly. Further it has already encouraged other plans for similar plants in the area, which in turn adds confidence and efficiency to our growers.
We are also very optimistic regarding an important and new European inward investor to the Worcester area who would establish a production unit that would create many jobs. Details have to remain confidential but the LEP has been instrumental in working across all parties to make this happen. Other manufacturers are looking at sites in Droitwich currently, and much activity is also in hand in the north of the County, not least in the determined drive by all parties to see a start soon on an enterprise park at Kidderminster. So it is not all gloom and doom in Worcestershire. We have a remarkable ability in UK it seems to ‘beat ourselves up’ but I remain confident that we can make a real difference around here. After all we have transport corridors and access that most counties would die for and there is no better place in Britain for distribution – ask those in the business. We must use our assets better and really open Worcestershire for business – then we really will be bucking the trend.
LEP Offices and Secretariat
We expect to be able to establish the LEP in its new offices when we return in the New Year. Much organization still remains but we are currently interviewing applicants for our secretariat team and we have located appropriate and available offices. All details will be circulated in early January.
Growing Places Fund
About 12 applications were received, jointly from both public and private sectors, which is excellent. These have been reviewed by the panel and the strong runners are being asked to provide further information. Our PQQ bid has been submitted to BIS and we expect to be able to allocate funds in mid January. Clearly everyone, not least Government, is looking for quick wins so ‘shovel ready’ projects are the priority.
Proposed LEP Conference
The Conference has been arranged for Thursday 23rd February at Sixways. It will be a half day am event to include feedback on LEP progress with objectives and priorities ahead, training and skills and access to finance sessions for both large companies and SMEs, and we also hope to have at least one notable keynote speaker. Full details will be available in early January but please reserve the date in your diaries.
Gary and I attended a LEP National Network funding workshop in London last week at which we were given useful information on funding sources and likely future policies. We were reminded of several funding mechanisms available to local authorities and those where the LEPs could be involved. Reference was also made to the Autumn Statement inclusion of a further £1bn into the RGF. A further round of the Capacity Fund was announced being £25k pa to each LEP for the next 3 years to assist with general costs.
Department of Energy and Climate Change – Low Carbon Energy Workshop
Chaired by Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State, with Greg Barker MP, this round table event had been organized for LEP Chairs and others to share views and experiences on low carbon investment and energy efficiency for business and industry. Government will shortly publish its Carbon Plan but it was interesting to note the absolute relevance of the AD Plant and other opportunities in a predominantly rural LEP like ours.
Future Events and Dates
Thurs 5th Jan – LEP Board Meeting
Tues 10th Jan – 2012 Olympics Opportunities Event – Sixways – chaired by LEP Chair
Wed 11th Jan – BIS Reception with Vince Cable MP at IOD London
Fri 13th Jan – Horticulture sector workshop – Wychavon DC, Pershore
Mon 23rd Jan – All Party Parliamentary Group meeting West Mids LEP Chairs – House of Commons
Wed 25th Jan – Wychavon Business Rates Consultation Meeting – Pershore
Wed 25th Jan – West Midlands LEP Chairs meeting – Birmingham
Fri 27th Jan – Redditch Business Leaders meeting with Karen Lumley MP – Abbey Hotel, Redditch
Tues 31st Jan – LEP Chairs reception/workshop with HRH Prince of Wales – St James’s Palace