New Anglia LEP plans new drive to close region’s productivity gap

Mark Pendlington.

Mark Pendlington. - Credit: Archant

Plans for a new drive to boost productivity in Suffolk and Norfolk are being drawn up by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Stakeholders at the LEP’s annual general meeting, held in Ipswich yesterday, heard that significant progress has been made towards targets on job creation and business start-ups set out in its Strategic Economic plan two years ago.

And a third objective, to unlock private sector investment, has already been met in full, five years early – but progress towards two other key targets, involving housing and productivity, has been more limited.

The target on productivity was to close a 7.8% gap between the region’s gross value added (GVA) per job and the national average by 2026, but in the past two years the gap has closed only marginally to 7.6%.

“Our productivity is still below the national average,” said Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP. “We will put in place a Productivity Commission which will tackle this head-on, producing an evidence-based analysis of the steps we need to take to address it.

“And GVA, this vital indicator of a region’s productivity, will now become a fifth Strategic Economic Plan ambition, with the aim of adding £14bn to the GVA of our two counties by 2026.”

Preliminary work on the project was approved by the LEP board at a meeting ahead of yesterday’s AGM, although no timescale for the eventual report has yet been set.

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Chris Starkie, managing director at the LEP, said the key need was for the region to attract and create higher skill and higher value jobs, with potential areas for action including the targeting of infrastructure investment and business support.

Infrastructure was also an important element in improving progress on housing, said Mr Starkie, with the 18,850 new homes built in the last two years representing 16.1% of the 2026 total of 117,000.

In contrast, more than one third (34%) of the target of 95,000 more jobs has already been achieved and nearly half (49.8%) of the target of 10,000 new businesses.

And, in addition to directly supporting 229 new homes, 4,464 more jobs and 350 new businesses, LEP programmes have helped to unlock £208.6m of private sector investment, ahead of the original 2021 target of £199m.