Chairman's Blog: Not job done, but job well begun

Just over a year ago we signed our £1 billion Growth Deal with Government, giving our City Region significant new investment and powers to put our ambitious vision for extraordinary growth into action.

The Growth Deal was a turning point for the LEP and our City Region, giving us the resources to unlock growth and business investment at a scale unprecedented in 10 years of City Region partnership working. However, over the past four years since the LEP was established, we’ve been able to achieve significant things even with comparatively modest resources. That’s why, later this week, we will publish our first impact report looking back at all we have delivered since 2011.

Looking back

Over the past four years we have developed from a partnership of business and council leaders, essentially founded on goodwill, to one that is making a real difference to the City Region economy and people’s lives. Together we have brought close to £3 billion of public and private sector investment into the region, supported businesses to create thousands of new jobs for local people and kick-started billions of pounds of development and infrastructure. This demonstrates just how much we can achieve when the public and private sectors work together.

2015 has seen the first Growth Deal-enabled projects get underway including significant investment to upgrade college facilities in Shipley, Halifax, Huddersfield and Leeds, and multi-million pound transport and regeneration schemes in Wakefield and Calderdale.

This summer, we launched our LEP growth service for small and medium sized business (SMEs). This service helps growing SMEs find the right support and finance to achieve their full potential. In just a few months we have supported over 600 businesses, helping them explore new business opportunities and paving the way for further growth and development.

Earlier in the year, we launched a £14 million package of skills funding to help SMEs invest in the skills and development of their workforce. So far we have committed funding to more than 300 SMEs across the City Region, enabling those businesses to become more productive and profitable.

In March last year, HRH the Duke of York launched our apprenticeship challenge to encourage 1,000 SMEs to take on an apprentice. This year, we exceeded that target twice over and have now created over 2,000 apprenticeship opportunities for young people, starting them on the right path to a more prosperous future and helping local businesses develop new talent.

Our achievements so far give us a firm foundation upon which to build. This is not job done, but I believe it’s a job well begun.

Looking ahead

As our Growth Deal investment continues, alongside over £300 million of European funding and other public and private sector investment, more developments will begin to spring out of the ground and both the LEP and our core delivery partner, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, will be able to go much further in ensuring everyone feels the benefits of a strong economy.

The prospect of further devolution of powers from Whitehall to our City Region could give our area much greater control over the investment decisions that will have the biggest impact on growth and job creation locally. And the Northern Powerhouse agenda, although still very much a work in progress, at least shows that government now recognises that the North is not the problem but the solution to a successful national economy.

Ensuring we make the most of these opportunities is our priority as we look ahead to 2016, and as LEP Chair I will continue to support local politicians’ efforts to reach a devolution settlement for the Leeds City Region that builds on the devolved powers and investment we have already secured and delivers the best possible economic outcomes for the millions of people who live here. If the past four years are anything to go by, the coming year will bring significant change (and some challenges) but to quote Abraham Lincoln, “the best way to predict your future is to create it.” I look forward to working with all of our local partners and government next year to create a bright and prosperous future for Leeds City Region.

The LEP will launch its impact report on 3rd December 2015, looking back over the past four years and what impact the LEP’s activity has had on the regional economy. Follow @LeedsCityRegion on Twitter for the latest updates and join the conversation using #LEPimpact.