Thursday, December 19, 2013

News: Growth plan goes to Government

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The Local Enterprise Partnership's (LEP) Growth Plan, which has set an ambitious target of creating 70,000 new jobs in the Sheffield City Region (SCR) by 2023, will be submitted to the Government today.

The Government's new model of local economic growth centres around LEPs, a collaboration between businesses and the local authorities that are placed at the heart of growth in the regions. In response to the Heseltine Review, the Government has charged LEPs with putting together local growth plans that will be the basis on which the Government negotiates deals with each LEP for new levers, resources, funding and flexibility over them.

In the future, LEPs will then be able to bid into a single pot of funding to support their plans.

The LEP's goal of creating 70,000 jobs is more than treble the current number forecast by economists which have been analysing the economy in the Sheffield City Region. Consultant economists at Ekosgen, IPPR North and Oxford Economics examined growth rates in the Sheffield City Region and believe that the area is currently on course to create only 20,000 jobs in the next decade. The LEP believes that this is not enough and that significant action is required to treble this number.

To reach the ambitious jobs target, and that of increasing output per worker by 25% in real terms, the Growth Plan also identifies a number of objectives covering business support for existing firms, attracting more inward investment, developing the skills base and improving infrastructure.

The draft plans include: a new initiative called the "Top 1000" which will focus on giving intensive support to the local businesses with the highest potential for economic growth; A "Skills Bank" to enable businesses to access a range of training and skills options, making it easier to take on an apprentices and graduates; Incentives and promotional activity to attract 20,000 new jobs to the City Region from the UK and overseas; An ultramodern public transport system to connect urban centres and key development areas; A bold housing plan which will see the Sheffield City Region control funds to unlock key housing sites.

James Newman, chairman of the Sheffield City Region LEP (pictured, third left), said: "This important plan sets out our ambition to transform the Sheffield City Region economy.

"The plan will ask Government to hand over the powers and funds to enable the Sheffield City Region to make improvements to skills, housing, transport and to create more and better jobs for the Sheffield City Region's 1.8 million residents.

"The Sheffield City Region is aiming to develop a stronger private sector. To achieve this, we must do more to attract investors to do business here, to increase our exports, to support high growth businesses to realise growth potential, and to compete on the international stage."

In the recent Autumn Statement, the government confirmed that LEPs are to bid for share of government funding using their strategic economic plans. The Local Growth Fund will be a minimum of £2 billion each year from 15-16 to 20-21 and the government will make £110m of Regional Growth Fund available for the Local Growth Fund.

LEPs will also be allocated £800m of borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board in 2014-15 and 2015-16 as part of growth deals, to borrow funding for infrastructure and regeneration projects. The government will also make £50m of funding available to LEPs through the Large Sites scheme.

It all means that the resources under the strategic influence of LEPs is at least £20 billion in the years to 2021. In addition to allocations from the Local Growth Fund, LEPs are encouraged to make the case for freedoms and flexibilities to support delivery of their wider strategic economic plans, with the presumption in favour of decentralisation.

Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership website

Images: Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership

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