Suffolk and Norfolk miss out on first wave of LEPs

THE chances of an economic tie-up between Norfolk and Suffolk appear to have dramatically increased today after both counties were left out of the first wave of plans to for new jobs and growth partnerships.

Ministers have approved 24 proposals for local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in a move that will see local business and civic leaders working together to drive sustainable economic growth and create new jobs in their communities.

The first wave will include a proposal for Greater Cambridgeshire and Greater Peterborough, which will include King’s Lynn. And in the south of the region there was support for a tie-up between Essex, Kent and East Sussex.

But rival schemes for East Anglia and Norfolk did not get the green light and both sides will now digest the feedback from government to decide what to do next.

However the odds are that talks will now open for a tie-up between the two counties.

Business and enterprise minister Mark Prisk is also expected to make a trip to both counties to take soundings on the idea.

In a letter to business secretary Vince Cable, and communities secretary Eric Pickles, Andy Wood, chairman of Choose Suffolk, Jeremy Pembroke, Leader of Suffolk County Council, and Steve Sharratt chairman of CBI East of England and Space for Ideas have called on the government to support a Norfolk/Suffolk tie-up.

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But much will now depend on how backers of the single Norfolk bid react, though there appears to be growing support among MPs for a pragmatic tie-up between the two counties.

Andy Wood, who is also chief executive of Adnams said: “While we would have hoped for a green light from the Government today, it is fundamentally important the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills continues to understand the growing support there is for a Suffolk/Norfolk LEP.”

“We are a dynamic area with common strengths in life sciences, ICT, carbon technologies and energy. Our bid, supported by leading national businesses based here, would see a lean strategic body with the economic weight and scale to ensure growth and prosperity is delivered.”

“We will continue to work with local Members of Parliament to ensure that the new Suffolk/Norfolk LEP is a reality the very near future.” he said.

Ministers also declared the �1.4bn Regional Growth Fund open for business.

The fund will support the creation of private sector jobs and will particularly support communities currently dependent on the public sector, helping them make the transition to private sector led growth and prosperity.

The announcements form part of a White Paper on Local Growth published today, which sets out the Government’s new approach to rebalance the economy and drive sustainable growth by focusing on three key themes:

Business Secretary, Vince Cable said: “I was delighted that so many of the proposals for local enterprise partnerships showed real imagination and initiative and a genuine desire to drive local economic growth. I am pleased to announce that we are asking 24 of these partnerships to set up their boards and get to work.

“The knowledge and expertise of the private sector, local authorities and their local communities will be crucial as we work to create a better environment for business and ensure that everyone has access to the opportunities that growth brings.

“The measures set out in today’s White Paper demonstrate the Coalition’s ambition to create a fairer and more balanced economy – one that is driven by private sector growth with business opportunities spread more evenly across the country and between industries.”

Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles said: “Over the last decade, the country’s economy became skewed by artificial boundaries and top-down prescription that did not work. We want to create a fairer and more balanced economy driven by private sector strength, and our plan for local growth will create local enterprise partnerships, reform the planning system and introduce development incentives for local authorities, like allowing them to keep their business rates, so all parts of the country benefit.

“I am delighted that we can announce today the first 24 local enterprise partnerships to be given the go ahead. Our vision for local enterprise partnerships will help transform the economic geography of the country by creating a new local dynamism that will encourage economic growth and protect business with proper local accountability.”