Government go-ahead for economic partnership
BUSINESS and civic leaders in Suffolk and Norfolk today welcomed a decision by the Government to give the green light to plans for a new Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) covering the two counties.
The announcement ends a period of uncertainty following the rejection of the separate plans favoured by the two counties in the first round of LEP approvals early last month.
Organisers behind the joint approach, to be known as the New Anglia LEP, will now press ahead with work to developing economic priorities and a business plan, together with and governance structures for the new body.
The Government’s decision was welcomed by Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams and chairman of the Choose Suffolk development partner, and Peter Barry, managing director of Great-Yarmouth based Pasta Foods, who have both championed the LEP.
Mr Wood said: “This is great news not only for the LEP proposal but for everyone in Suffolk and Norfolk.
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“It is a green light to continue working together and to face head on the challenges of bringing the economic aspirations of the two counties together.
“We will now move forward, continue the momentum we have and ensure we build together for the future economic success of New Anglia.”
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Mr Barry added: “The proposal, written last month by business and civic leaders, built on the combined strengths of the two areas, to create a partnership that will unlock the enormous economic potential of New Anglia, creating thousands of private sector jobs.
“This follows the Government inviting business and local authority leaders to develop proposals for Local Enterprise Partnerships to help.”
The leaders of Suffolk and Norfolk county councils also welcomed the announcement.
Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “I very much welcome the confirmation from government that this business led, forward thinking proposal can become a reality.
“It is an exciting time for both Suffolk and Norfolk and the new anglia LEP will have a fundamental role in the future prosperity of our economy. We will ensure the momentum we have now continues.”
His counterpart on Norfolk County Council, Derrick Murphy, added: “Norfolk and Suffolk have many common strengths and challenges.
“The need for effective broadband coverage, up-skilling the workforce, off shore energy and tourism offer the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership a common set of objectives, which will unlock and enhance its economic potential.”
Other business leaders also added their voices in support of the joint LEP
Peter Funnell, president of Suffolk Chamber, said: “The New Anglia LEP is a real opportunity to develop a new economy in Norfolk and Suffolk which will reinforce the place of the East of England on the global economic map.”
Robin Twigge, East Anglia regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, added: “This is huge progress towards working together and listening to the concerns of small businesses.
“We are excited about the urgent need to encourage both the development of new business and the continuation of all small business.”
New Anglia is now inviting residents and businesses in the region to take have their say in setting the priorities for the new body.
A website has been set up through which any individual, group or business can log on, sign in and put forward and explain their priorities for the economic future of the region.
The site, www.newanglia.co.uk, allows visitors to register and leave their views on the priorities of starting up a new business, promoting innovation and skills for the future along with a number of other key issues for New Anglia.
“It is right that the new Local Enterprise Partnerships are business-led.” added Mr Wood. “As businesses we know that the number one priority is listening to our customers.”
Mr Barry added: “We want as many people as possible to access our portal and take three small steps; log on, sign in and tell us your priorities.”
The agreement to submit the New Anglia bid ended a struggle for supremacy between rival plans for a Norfolk-only partnership and a joint Norfolk-Suffolk approach after the two counties were both left out of the first wave of LEPs announced by the Government to replace regional development agencies, including the East of England Development Agency.
An East Anglia LEP bid, covering Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and parts of north Essex, was rejected by ministers in favour of a Greater Cambridgeshire and Peterborough LEP, and a county-based bid for Norfolk was knocked back.
Norwich City Council, which had backed the East Anglia bid, then threw its weight behind a joint Norfolk-Suffolk bid, which also inherited the broad support in Suffolk for a regional approach, although other organisations north of the River Waveney continued to back a Norfolk-only bid.
However, Norfolk County Council was persuaded to switch its support to a joint approach and a formal bid quickly followed to avoid the two counties missing out on funding opportunities.
Essex was included in the first wave of LEP approvals as part of a three-way partnership with Kent and East Sussex.