Thursday, November 5, 2015

News: New LEP chair announced

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Sir Nigel Knowles, global co-chairman of law firm, DLA Piper, has been appointed as the new chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) board.

LEPs are the government's new model to promote economic development. LEPs provide the strategic leadership required to set out local economic priorities, and better reflect the natural economic geography of the areas they serve.

The board is private sector led and the position has been held by James Newman, former Master Cutler and current chairman of Finance Yorkshire, who helped to bring the bid for the partnership together with businesses and local authority representatives across the city region and was named as chair in 2010.

Sir Nigel, who will take on the new role from the end of the year, said: "Sheffield City Region has positioned itself at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse over the last few years, winning deal after deal with government and working in partnership to deliver growth and jobs in the local economy.

"When the opportunity to play a leading part in the future of Sheffield City Region came about, I realised that this was a chance to make a difference to an area that has played a huge part in my life and to the development of DLA Piper.

"I believe that the LEP has a clear vision, a strategy for achieving it and team of people truly committed to achieving its goals. I hope that my skills and experience, in transforming a Yorkshire law firm into a global business, can be used to drive forward these goals and economic ambitions.

"As chair of Sheffield City Region LEP I look forward to furthering relations with colleagues at Whitehall, and at LEPs in Leeds, Manchester and across the North to build a better connected and prosperous Northern Powerhouse."

A law graduate of the University of Sheffield and a proud native of Stocksbridge, Sir Nigel Knowles is recognised as the driving force behind DLA Piper's remarkable growth, taking the firm from its UK regional origins to the global business it is today.

A collaboration between businesses and the local authorities that are placed at the heart of growth in the regions, the Government 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 city region's growth plan has the ambitious aim to create 70,000 new private sector jobs and 6,000 new businesses. Acknowledged as one of the country's leading LEPs, SCR secured a £320m million Growth Deal from Government and in December 2014, achieved a devolution deal to give the city region even more influence and control over its affairs on skills, infrastructure and business support.

In 2013, the nine local authorities that comprise the SCR agreed to create a new legal body, the Combined Authority, that would have responsibility for transport, economic development and regeneration. The LEP and the SCR Combined Authority have assumed a joint role in developing and delivering the economic strategy for the SCR and a joint SCR Executive Team has been created, with Ben Still as executive director.

Refinement of the governance structure has led to the creation of executive boards that will cover: skills, business growth, infrastructure, transport and housing. They are tasked with making key decisions on strategy and budget allocation. The boards are made up of key players in the public and private sector and have delegated authority from the combined authority and LEP.

Having recently negotiated its latest devolution deal with the Government, the new chair of the LEP is set to take his place alongside local authority leaders to work with a directly elected mayor from 2017.

Councillor Sir Steve Houghton CBE, LEP board member and Chair of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, said: "I look forward to welcoming Sir Nigel as new Chair of our LEP board. I am confident that his vast experience, knowledge and business acumen will help to drive forward our economic agenda.

"On behalf of the entire LEP Board, I would also like to thank outgoing LEP Chairman James Newman for his role in the creation of the LEP and his incredible contribution to the City Region over the past five years. He leaves our LEP in excellent shape."

Outgoing LEP chairman James Newman added: "The LEP Board has made an excellent choice and I believe that Sir Nigel will be a worthy successor to me as LEP chairman. I wish him all the best in his new role and will do all I can to support him.

"As LEP chairman since its formation in 2010, I have been privileged to lead the organisation as it has developed and gone from strength-to-strength and I am truly proud of what has been achieved for the city region."

Sheffield City Region LEP website

Images: DLA Piper

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