East Anglia: New Anglia chairman Mark Pendlington sets out his ambitions for LEP

Peter Funnell, left, and Mark Pendlington in discussion before the recent Suffolk Chamber dinner at

Peter Funnell, left, and Mark Pendlington in discussion before the recent Suffolk Chamber dinner at Ipswich Town Football Club. - Credit: Archant

Mark Pendlington, director of corporate affairs at Anglian Water, was elected in April as chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) while Peter Funnel has just completed his term as president of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce. During Dr Funnell’s last engagement before standing down, a chamber dinner at Ipswich Town Football Club, he found to quiest corner of the stadium to talke to Mr Pendlington about his new role.

Peter Funnell (PF): Congratulations on your appointment, Mark. The role of chairman at New Anglia is an important and influential one. Why have you taken it on?

Mark Pendlington (MP): Thank you, Peter. I have a real passion for helping business to achieve great things for themselves, as well as for the local economy. So what better job to be asked to do? It’s a real privilege to lead New Anglia and to have this very special opportunity to get out there and help make a difference.

PF: The business community has welcomed the need for LEPs to be business led and delivery focused. What experience from your career do you bring to this important leadership role?

MP: I’ve been very fortunate to work with business leaders who have felt as deeply as I do that business has a particular role and responsibility to help shape public policy and to lead UKplc in the competitive global economy. For example, I was the chief executive of the CLA (the Country Land & Business Association), an influential and powerful voice for rural Britain that is at the forefront of rural diversification and regeneration; I was a director at London Stansted Airport where growth was an essential part of supporting business growth, and where I championed local SMEs having access to the airport supply chain; and at Anglian Water, we underpin economic growth and are one of the biggest investors in our region with plans to spend around £5billion in infrastructure and services to 2020.

PF: It is good to hear that you bring wide experience of working with businesses related to the everyday lives of people in Suffolk and Norfolk. What in your view do we offer the rest of the UK?

MP: First of all, as one of two fastest growing regions in the UK we are a net contributor to the Treasury, so we are doing our bit to help fund recovery and growth while securing the east of England as one of the best places in the country to live and work. And second, we are a magnet for a growing number of global sectors and industries and have some of the most talented and entrepreneurial people in the world dedicating themselves to growth and opportunity. That’s the best possible news for every business located here, or that wants to get established here. New Anglia is home for the brightest and the best. Everyone is welcome.

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PF: Your predecessor Andy Wood said from his first day as chairman that New Anglia would and should be judged on jobs and economic prosperity. Is that a desire that you share?

MP: Yes. I am very fortunate to follow in the footsteps of someone like Andy who has established New Anglia as a powerful and authoritative voice both in our region and on the UK stage. Andy’s focus was to create the fantastic opportunity we have to be the driver of economic prosperity. As a result we have City Deals in Ipswich and Norwich and an Enterprise Zone in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. Together, they are already delivering results, including new investment and jobs. We also have the Green Economy Pathfinder, which I am proud to lead, that is setting the national agenda for delivering the potential for business growth in low carbon goods and services. And I have asked Andy to lead on our skills manifesto too. My priority and focus is delivery on our economic strategy and the promises we have made. Which is why I have introduced business performance reporting to the LEP. Month by month we will be able to monitor progress against targets and keep a focus on what really matters. I constantly ask myself, who is doing what and by when? Then what’s next? Momentum is all important.

PF: The business community does share that view Mark but the real challenge is where does the LEP go next?

MP: We are only three years old. Some fantastic work has been done, and we have a massive and ever growing “To Do” list. One thing I do know is that there will be no future unless we have a strong LEP board made up of the best available leaders from across the private and public sectors. Collaboration is fundamental to success, and here in New Anglia we are recognised as being an exemplar for how it needs to work. Only then can we cut through bureaucracy and red tape and focus on delivery. Bringing people together, often out of comfortable silos, to talk and work together to figure out how to get things done, is hugely liberating for all involved. And the biggest kick I get is to be part of that buzz of creativity and innovative thinking. So where we go next is to get even more people involved and working with the LEP. I promise you, it’s hugely worthwhile.

PF: Again I don’t think anyone would disagree with that approach but we all know for delivery to continue year on year there has to be investment. Where will that come from?

MP: We recently submitted bold plans to Government with the ambition to reinforce Norfolk and Suffolk’s place in the global economy. In July we received a fantastic vote of confidence with 10 of our priority projects winning significant funding and support which will unlock real growth across the region. This means new roads and better transport links, greater training and skills for the regions youngsters, targeted funding and support for small businesses and faster broadband – an enterprise lifeline for the entrepreneur through to the established rural company. The Government have also given us greater freedom and flexibility over our funding, which demonstrates the faith they have in our ability to deliver on our plans.

PF: Mark I appreciate you have a very busy schedule and thanks for sharing your views with us tonight. What’s next for the New Anglia LEP chairman?

MP: I’m a huge supporter of the chamber and time with you and colleagues is always very well spent. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. What’s next? I have a meeting of the Rail Taskforce to campaign for extra investment in rail services; a meeting with David Cameron to talk about skills and broadband; with the Housing Minister I am cutting the first turf on a new investment in the Enterprise Zone; I am spending a day along the north and east coast to discuss how we might help fund flood defences; I am speaking at three business conferences; and then there’s the day job at Anglian Water which is incredibly busy too. I am daunted by the big challenges that are ahead, and by the responsibility to deliver on expectations. But I can’t think of a better job to have and a better set of people to work with to get the job done.