LEP Chair reflects on 2018 and the opportunities on the horizon

It’s been a fantastic year, with the LEP continuing to support growing businesses, meet the skills needs of employers and attract major investments – all of which are making a real difference to local people and our economy.

We reached the halfway delivery point in our £1billion-plus Growth Deal with government - creating or safeguarding 27,500 jobs and in effect doubling the funding we’ve committed so far by leveraging around an extra £340m from the public and private sectors.

The impact is being felt across the region and three years after we received our first tranche of funding, we were delighted to announce that over 100 significant Growth Deal projects have now been approved.

As a region, we have an ambition to create more skilled jobs and securing these jobs for local people. A great example of what we can achieve when come together under one unified voice, is Channel 4’s decision to come to Leeds City Region after our successful campaign.

We are already beginning to see the wider benefits of Channel 4 choosing to locate here with media and commentators taking a fresh look at the region. Beyond the 1,200 jobs that we estimate Channel 4’s move will create directly, it enables us to ignite further growth within our thriving creative and digital industries.

This effect has already been seen with production companies including UKTV, Wise Owl Films and Workerbee all announcing that they too will locate to the region following Channel 4’s decision. The opportunities that this will bring them and us are infinite, from developing our talented young people and drawing international attention.

The campaign has also been a platform for us to raise awareness of the benefits of living, working and doing business in the Leeds City Region and I have no doubt that our collaborative partnerships will continue to develop and grow in 2019.

Alongside attracting businesses to move to the region, it is vital that we continue to encourage existing businesses to stay and grow here. I was thrilled when this year we passed the 10,000 businesses supported mark since April 2015. From funding for start-ups and early stage companies to support with strategic business planning – businesses have benefited from investment totalling over £34 million.

Looking ahead, it is essential that our region secures the investment we require and we will be seeking certainty over future funding streams following our six year Growth Deal. Improvements to transport is vital and by investing in our key infrastructures we will we be able to better connect our communities and make a tangible and lasting difference to our region, economy and local people.

Following the announcement of our intended merger with York and North Yorkshire to form a single LEP covering a larger area, I’m pleased to say work is already underway looking at the detail of bringing these organisations together into a new body that can do even more to support business and the economy.

Combining forces will unlock massive opportunities for all of our rural, coastal and urban communities. The new enhanced LEP will be the largest LEP in the country outside of London, and will therefore give us a stronger voice on the national and international stage.

Our larger scale will also put us in a position to argue our case even more effectively when seeking powers and resources from the Government in the interest of our region. This could prove particularly significant as the debate over long term funding for regional economic development, and in particular the design and purpose of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, gathers pace.

Representing 3.1 million people and an economy worth £70.3 billion, we will use our collective voice to generate further investment, strengthening local communities and benefiting the people who live and work here. I am heading into 2019 with a great sense of optimism about the extraordinary growth and social transformation this new LEP will achieve.

I look forward to seeing the progress we make in the next 12 months and I am confident that this time next year, I will be able to talk about the great strides forward we have made.

So, finally let me finish by wishing Yorkshire Post readers and businesses across our region a happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.

Combining forces to secure investment and influence

Commenting on the proposed LEP merger between Leeds City Region, York and North Yorkshire, Chairs Roger Marsh OBE and David Kerfoot MBE DL, said: “Our respective LEPs have achieved a great deal over the past seven years, from putting in place nationally acclaimed rural business support schemes to securing major investment for new transport and broadband infrastructure.

“Now we have an opportunity to do even more for the rural, coastal and urban communities we represent, by bringing together elements of our existing LEP geographies into a combined engine for extraordinary economic growth that will enable all parts of our region to prosper”.

This article first appeared in the Yorkshire Post on 11 December 2018 as our monthly LEP column.