New Anglia LEP forms taskforce to address downturn in oil and gas sector

New Anglia LEP chairman Mark Pendlington.

New Anglia LEP chairman Mark Pendlington.

A taskforce is to be established to support businesses and employees in Suffolk and Norfolk who are being affected by the downturn in the oil and gas sector.

A fall in the global price of oil over the past year has caused a reduction in exploration activity and investment by major oil companies, with the North Sea particularly hard hit.

This has caused a number of businesses in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth to experience difficulties, with a number of staff being made redundant.

Now, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is aiming to bring together key stakeholders from central and local government, MPs and representatives from the industry to co-ordinate support for businesses and individuals affected.

This will include advice on grants and other funding and support to help businesses export and find new markets as well as assistance for those made redundant. The group will also develop a long-term strategy for the sector.

The taskforce will be chaired by Mark Goodall, a member of the LEP board who has extensive experience in the energy sector and is currently area mananger for the Norwegian-owned engineering and technology company Aker Solutions.

It will also include Waveney MP Peter Aldous and Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis together with representatives from the East of England Energy Group, Waveney District Council, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, and Suffolk and Norfolk county councils.

Most Read

Central government will be represented by officials from both the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP, said: “The oil and gas industry in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft is vitally important to our economy.

“I have asked Mark Goodall, with his industry knowledge and expertise, to chair this taskforce looking at how we can best support businesses and retain their talented and highly skilled workforce.”

The taskforce has already gained the support of Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom, who offered her support and to meet the group in response to a question in the House of Commons from Peter Aldous.

Mr Aldous said: “The oil and gas industry in the North Sea faces very challenging times and it is very important to the East Anglian economy.

“It is therefore great news that the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership is creating an Oil and Gas Taskforce to support the industry during these difficult times.

“I welcome the Minister’s assurances that the Department for Energy is Climate Change is happy to play a role in taskforce alongside Brandon Lewis and myself, and I look forward to meeting up with him to discuss this further.”

Brandon Lewis added: “I fully support the working group, and will work with them to ensure we continue to do all we can locally to deliver on the growth opportunities for our area and to make sure we do all we can to support those who have seen their employment at risk by the company failures we have seen over the last couple of weeks.”

The group is due to meet in the coming days and will report back to the LEP board meeting in July.