Ursula Lidbetter

Ursula Lidbetter

ulidbetter

Ursula Lidbetter is the Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Co-operative and the Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership


2015 has been a very successful year for the LEP and for Greater Lincolnshire as a whole. We secured more funding for the area in the second round of government Growth Deals, bringing total investment of £146.2 million by 2021, and a number of projects benefiting from this funding are now beginning to take shape.

We have also been busy working to improve our agrifood sector – one of the most important elements of our economy. We have created a Food Board, launched our Agrifood Plan which aims to will double the sector’s contribution to the economy by 2030, and secured funding to develop three new Food Enterprise Zones. We will also be launching an important Water Management Plan next year to support our growth and the food sector and to reduce the risk of flooding.

2016 will be a very important year for us. We expect to see progress made on all our Growth Deal projects, from road improvement schemes to new housing, and we are looking forward to the official opening of phase two of Bishop Burton’s Riseholme College Showground Campus and the Boole Technology Centre on the Lincoln Science and Innovation Park.

Our priority continues to be improvements to our infrastructure, including road networks, public transport links and superfast broadband access – those living in rural areas and even many urban locations will be able to testify how badly needed this is. There are still weakness in the important links between producers and their markets, between people and workplaces, between skills needs and training opportunities, and between visitors and tourist attractions. We will not fully realise Greater Lincolnshire’s potential until we have remedied these.

In 2015 we put in place a new body to support businesses which need advice and guidance to grow and help with finance. The Greater Lincolnshire Growth Hub was officially launched in October but it has been hard at work since the summer, delivering high-quality business diagnostics and support packages across our area.

2016 will also be an important year for the English regions. There has been much talk about the Northern Powerhouse, the Midlands Engine and devolution – all buzzwords which reflect the fact that rebalancing power and prosperity between London and the rest of the country are high on the agenda in Whitehall and at your local LEP.

The Government has encouraged areas to request devolved powers and in September all Greater Lincolnshire’s local authorities and the Greater Lincolnshire LEP submitted an expression of interest for ambitious plans to bring more local power and responsibility in areas such as transport, skills, growth, policing and health.

We believe that certain services and projects would be more efficient and achieve better outcomes if they were run locally than nationally as at present. It is vital that we make business part of the devolution arrangements so that the public sector and the private sector work together on economic growth and development with a shared understanding.

Parallel to the devolution discussions is a move to realise the full economic potential of the Midlands region. In December the Business Secretary Sajid Javid MP launched the Midlands Engine prospectus, a document which aims to boost productivity, attract inward investment, increase connectivity and build a regional tourism offer in the Midlands. Greater Lincolnshire is one of 11 LEPs which pooled their ambitions in the Midlands Engine prospectus and we look forward to moving this agenda forward in 2016.

So, looking forward, 2016 will be a year of challenges and opportunities for Greater Lincolnshire. I am sure that with the support of businesses, councils and local people we can overcome the challenges, seize the opportunities and build a prosperous future for Greater Lincolnshire.

My New Year’s Resolution

As a Local Enterprise Partnership we are committed to working as hard as we possibly can to improve the conditions for business and enterprise in Greater Lincolnshire.


Ursula Lidbetter is the Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Co-operative and the Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership

Ursula Lidbetter is the Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Co-operative and the Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership

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.

Ursula Lidbetter is the Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Co-operative and the Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership

What makes co-ops different is that we’re owned by our members; in Lincolnshire Co-op’s case more than 228,000 local people.

We share our profits with our members whether that’s through dividend, new stores and improved services or, by supporting community groups and good causes in their communities.

2013 is a year I’ll always remember because we finally cracked something we’d been working on for years – directly connecting our members to those good causes.

Our Community Champions scheme launched in March. Through the dividend card, it links every member to a community group or charity near to where they live.

Every time they shop with us, a donation goes to that group. Members can find out who they’re supporting through a message on their till receipt or through a display in store, which also shows how much has been raised for the current group.

What I love is that Community Champions empowers our members. They can make a difference to groups that are doing good work right on their doorstep.

If a member has one cause particularly close to their heart, there’s even an option to support one group all year round.

So far, we’ve shared £148,000 between around 400 different groups and we’ve had great feedback.

From youngsters in Crowland who’ve got new games for their youth club to the members of Navenby Friendship Club who are enjoying a spot of indoor curling with the equipment they’ve been able to purchase, it’s having an impact.

Next time you’re in one of our outlets, have a look at your receipt or the display and see who your Community Champion is. And if you’re from a good cause or charity, go to our website and find out how your group could benefit.

On the commercial side of our business, I’ve been pleased to see growth with the opening of lots of new services including food stores, pharmacies and travel agencies. We’ve also invested in some of the ‘behind the scenes’ infrastructure – such as our food distribution centre and our own bakery Gadsby’s,

Our biggest challenges included cuts to income received from Government in pharmacy and post offices and the continuing difficult economic climate.

Consumers are being ever more careful with their money and cutting back on spending – it means that as a business you have to offer value, competitive offers and great customer service to ensure they support you. The efforts of my 2,800 colleagues have allowed us to do that and we recorded another strong result.

Follow all the columns from the Reflections 2013 series

Ursula Lidbetter is the Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Co-operative and the Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership

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