2014 has been a busy year for the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership and one which has been marked by some considerable successes as we strive to make Greater Lincolnshire a more prosperous and sustainable place.
We have been working hard to attract maximum funding to the area, and I’m pleased to say that we are seeing the delivery of some significant LEP projects.
The highlight of the year was our negotiation with central Government of a major Growth Deal which is bringing £67.5 million of new money into Greater Lincolnshire. At the same time we gained approval for four Growing Places Loans worth £9.5 million to local organisations to enable stalled developments to go ahead.
It has also been a crucial year for developing our strategic plans. We launched our Strategic Economic Plan and our European Strategy in 2014 and we have been developing individual plans for our key sectors, including agri-food, the visitor economy, health and care and manufacturing.
We also conducted a wide-reaching employer survey to inform these plans, and the results proved very interesting. Over the next year 27% of all Greater Lincolnshire employers expect to increase their number of staff (compared with just 3% who don’t), while two-thirds of employers in Greater Lincolnshire anticipate an increase in turnover and/or profitability over the next 12 months.
However, the survey also highlighted some challenges with which we are already familiar: 86% of employers agreed that having access to superfast broadband is important for their business, while 30% of employers in Greater Lincolnshire cited poor transport infrastructure as an obstacle to growth.
These challenges are being addressed in our long-term Strategic Economic Plan for the area, which takes us up to 2030. Our key priorities are a long-term commitment to infrastructure investment; growing and upskilling our current and future workforce; increasing innovation by growing our research capacity and performance through business-led initiatives; and better promotion of Greater Lincolnshire as a place to invest, work and live.
By the end of the plan we aim to help create 13,000 new jobs, support 22,000 businesses and increase the value of the Greater Lincolnshire economy by £3.2 billion.
2014 has been dominated, however, by the Growth Deal we secured from central government: £111.2 million for Greater Lincolnshire over two years, £67.3 million of which is new money, supporting a balance of infrastructure, housing, skills and enterprise schemes.
A total of £39.8m has been committed for six major projects and a further £27.5m is earmarked for six more projects next year.
The first tranche of projects are the Grantham Southern Relief Road (£16m), Boston Quadrant (£4.75m), Boole Technology Centre, Lincoln (£3.38m), Unlocking Rural Housing, Boston and East Lindsey (£4.13m), Bishop Burton College (£7.5m) and the Skegness Countryside Business Park and western relief road (£4m).
Growth Deals are a new competitive process which requires LEPs to bid against each other for funds. They give us strategic decision-making authority for the first time and allow us to focus the spend where it will have the greatest benefit for our area. Greater Lincolnshire did very well out of this process in 2014 and we are currently preparing for the second round of Growth Deals.
However, Growth Deals are not the only funding available to develop projects: the European Regional Development Fund supports specific themes, many of which are important and relevant to our growth including innovation, SME competitiveness, low-carbon projects and climate change, while the European Social Fund looks to support the promotion of employment, work readiness and investing in education. We have been successful in attracting funds from these sources too.
While all this has been going on the Greater Lincolnshire LEP has also made changes of its own to enable us to do the best possible job on behalf of the area. In September we became Greater Lincolnshire LEP Limited, a company limited by guarantee. As a result of this change the LEP’s board is able to make more effective, transparent decisions and access more government funding for various projects than it could as an unincorporated partnership.
We were really pleased with the response to our annual LEP Business Live event in October, which is now firmly established in the county’s business calendar. Over 300 business people attended the event which featured an informative talk by Simon Calver, former CEO of LoveFilm, and an opportunity to put questions to members of the LEP board.
I am proud to be Chair of what I think is one of the country’s most successful LEPs and I am heartened by the response and impact our actions have had already. We are not a bureaucratic body but a voice for our area, working with government to find solutions that best benefit your needs. We welcome your support and look forward to another successful year in 2015.