LEP sets ambitious goal for region’s recovery

Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has set itself the ambitious goal of wiping out social and economic inequality in West Yorkshire while driving future prosperity through innovation and entrepreneurship as it plans for the region’s recovery.

The plan which will see the LEP implement two new frameworks which could deliver a £7 billion boost to the economy, was discussed earlier today at a board meeting.

The Inclusive Growth and Innovation Frameworks have been developed by the LEP and West Yorkshire Combined Authority to promote well-being, skills, digital and transport connectivity and foster a culture of innovation with the long-term aspiration of eliminating economic and social disparities in the region.

Roger Marsh OBE DL, chair of the LEP and the NP11 group of northern local enterprise partnerships, said: “The effect of Covid-19 has been devastating for so many people and businesses in our region. It has redoubled our commitment to making sure everyone can find the right skills and training to help them get on in life and make ours a productive economy that works for everyone.”

Cllr Shabir Pandor, chair of the LEP’s Inclusive Growth and Public Policy Panel, and leader of Kirklees Council, added: “The pandemic has shown that for all the progress we’ve made in tackling inequality across the region, we still have a way to go. Despite the high levels of economic growth and job creation that the region has achieved over the last decade, the benefits have not been felt equally by all our communities.”

He added that both of the frameworks will help the LEP and Combined Authority to “build the kind of region where everyone has the chance to achieve their full potential”.

The need for these frameworks has never been greater according to the statistics from the Combined Authority. Since the first lockdown began in March, unemployment has risen by 87% to almost 107,000, with Bradford now having the highest youth unemployment rate in the country.

In order to tackle these issues and build a strong long-term recovery, the LEP’s Inclusive Growth Framework aims to promote well-being, higher skills, and good digital and transport connectivity.

The overall ‘prize’ of inclusive growth is significant. OECD analysis shows that addressing inequality can have a sizeable impact on growth and prosperity. Levelling up incomes for the lowest 40% of earners could deliver a cumulative GDP gain of nearly 9% over 30 years. In West Yorkshire, this would translate to an inclusive growth ‘dividend’ of almost £7 billion, with additional positive effects in terms of improved health, well-being and reduced benefits payments.

Closely related to this is the Innovation Framework which looks to support innovation and entrepreneurship in Leeds City Region, which will be a fundamental part of the region’s recovery from Covid-19, as well as its long-term economic future.

With the framework focused on overcoming structural, long-term issues that have resulted in lower levels of innovation among the region’s businesses leading to lower productivity and stalled improvements in living standards.

The LEP wants the region to build a global reputation as having an open, inclusive, thriving and coherent innovation ecosystem, where SMEs, entrepreneurs and individuals are inspired to innovate, and can easily navigate the support landscape and connect and collaborate with others to create new and better solutions for business growth and societal good.

Roger Marsh OBE DL is one of the Northern leaders to be taking to the virtual stage at the upcoming Invest North conference, which will look to set the agenda for the North’s next steps and recovery from the Covid crisis.