As we come to the end of 2016, we can reflect on a number of excellent achievements in Worcestershire that we can all be proud of. The latest statistics showed that in recent years, the County has been first for strongest growth in higher level workforce skills, second for highest growth in productivity and third for highest growth in prosperity. Last month’s WLEP16 Annual Conference and Annual Report celebrated the many business successes we have seen locally in the past twelve months, with even more local award winners mentioned in this newsletter. During 2017, we must continue to build on this success and with clear governance and strong partnership working, we are in a good position to continue delivering our ambitious 10-Year Strategic Economic Plan.
In last month’s Autumn Statement, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, confirmed that Local Enterprise Partnerships across England will be given a total of £1.8bn of Local Growth Fund to deliver economic growth for their respective regions. In Worcestershire, we are already seeing benefits from the schemes which have been supported to date and we now await details regarding our ambitious Growth Deal 3 bid which includes programmes that could grow our local economy further.
We are committed to our vision of building a connected, creative, dynamic economy that delivers increased prosperity for all. We, therefore, welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement of additional funding to support infrastructure in the UK which includes significant investment in fibre Broadband and 5G technology. Thanks to the Superfast Worcestershire programme, more than 90% of Worcestershire’s businesses can access high speed fibre broadband and this newsletter contains details on how you can find out whether your business can sign up to faster speeds. With current Growth Deal and other investment, Superfast Broadband will be available to 95% of premises by Spring next year and we continue to work with partners to further improve connectivity for our local businesses.
As always, there are many events to support the County’s business community. Last weekend saw the return of Small Business Saturday a campaign that I proudly support and I would encourage others to do so. There is a huge amount of support available for companies looking to export and the Department for International Trade’s ‘Exploring Export’ event on 9 December in Kidderminster will provide a wealth of information. This newsletter also contains details of four European Social Funds calls, which deadline on 15 January 2017, and I would encourage interested parties to book a place at one of the dedicated events during December which are designed to help local organisations to access this funding.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I look forward to celebrating many more achievements across the County in 2017.