Friday, January 30, 2015

News: Sheffield City Region secures bigger Growth Deal

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The Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership has agreed an expansion to its Growth Deal with the Government which will see an extra £30.7m invested in Sheffield City Region between 2016 and 2021.

The Government's model of local economic growth centres around Local Enterprise Partnerships (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.

The Sheffield City Region LEP submitted its final Strategic Economic Plan last April which set an ambitious target of creating 70,000 new jobs in the Sheffield City Region by 2023. In the Summer it was announced that the city region had secured £295.2m to support economic growth in the area.

After further funding for LEPs was announced in the recent Autumn Statement, the Sheffield City Region LEP had to prioritise an initial submission for "Growth Deal 2" in relation to three potential funding options provided by Government. An additional £30.7m has now been confirmed to take the total funding to £328m. Although not necessarily "new money," it is set to bring forward at least £530m of additional investment from local partners and the private sector.

Additional proposed projects including:

- Investment in Skills, capital investment in training facilities across the Sheffield City Region, to maintain and improve facilities for learners. This will include the creation of a new Rail Engineering Campus in Doncaster, bringing together a new £50m Centre of Excellence for Rail Engineering with the HS2 National College and other major facilities to make Doncaster the UK's capital for rail engineering skills.

- Further investment in the Business Support Programme to support local businesses to invest and grow, including its existing unlocking business growth programme

- Further investment in a Sustainable Transport Exemplar Programme to promote cycling, walking and public transport across the City Region

- A fund to speed up development in the Sheffield City Region Enterprise Zone, creating new high quality employment premises and speeding up the delivery of jobs and further investment in the Enterprise Zone

- An investment to speed up delivery of the rail replacement programme for Sheffield's Supertram network

Lord Newby, Government Deputy Chief Whip (pictured), was in the region to announce the deal. He said that it builds on the initial Growth Deal, putting the tools in place to give local leaders an "unprecedented level of control over Government funding."

James Newman, chairman of the Sheffield City Region LEP, added: "There has been a lot of talk and seminars around devolution. Our approach is about influence - how we can influence policy and influence how the money is spent.

"A lot of LEPs have used the opportunity to "land grab" and go after funding. For us, it isn't all about the money. It's about getting the flexibility in place for a pot of money that the Government gives us and having the ability to respond to private sector need. It's a little at a time, the newly established combined authority is not yet ready to take more on. Sometimes it is a case of "Be careful what you ask for."

Speaking at the LEP's business conference, Newman, who is set to step down from his role in the Summer, concluded: "2015 is a year of opportunity for the Sheffield City Region. My legacy is for the private sector to be engrained in every aspect of economic development."

Sheffield City Region LEP website

Images: Tom Austen

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