Landmark deal as partnerships link up to boost region’s economy

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YORKSHIRE’S three new Local Enterprise Partnerships have agreed a landmark deal to work together on key issues to boost the region’s economy.

The move aims to ease fears that the looming abolition of development agency Yorkshire Forward could jeopardise work on issues which are important across the entire region such as developing vital transport schemes or other major infrastructure.

It will also allow the three partnerships – led by councils and businesses in Leeds City Region, Sheffield City Region and York and North Yorkshire – to lobby Government and the European Union on behalf of the entire region.

By taking advantage of the “Yorkshire” brand, the organisations also hope to steal a march on other areas where they may find themselves competing for jobs and investment.

After criticism of the bureaucracy of agencies like Yorkshire Forward and with little money available from the Government for economic development, the partnerships are at pains to stress there will be no “complex structures” but hope to agree an approach through regular meetings of chairmen and chief executives.

“The three Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) chairmen with interests in Yorkshire – Leeds City Region, Sheffield City Region, York and North Yorkshire – Neil McLean, James Newman and Barry Dodd announce that they have met together and agreed that there will be benefits in working collaboratively in some areas through some form of association between adjacent LEPs,” the three said in a statement today.

“Formal and informal co-operation will focus on those matters where the individual LEPs believe that co-operation will assist in growing their respective geographic economies.

“At this time, especially at this early stage of the three LEPs’ development, further details of how best to formulate any co-operation still have to be worked out. These will start with discussions to identify areas where it would be more efficient and effective to work together.”

Examples where work is likely to concentrate include the production and use of economic data, used to help make major decisions and inform any bids for Government funding. Yorkshire Forward was responsible for this.

The three chairmen have also identified “sector networks” – such as advanced manufacturing or renewable energy – which stretch across the three areas, and the co-ordination of certain large scale innovation projects as priorities for co-operation.

“It is also envisaged that the LEPs could work together to lobby national Government to support joint projects in such sectors as transport or other major infrastructure developments,” they said.

“The three chairmen also see value in a joint approach on some EU issues and, working together, will lobby Europe whenever necessary on behalf of all businesses.”

Although the Tories and Liberal Democrats – and some businesses – were critical of regional development agencies, Yorkshire Forward won praise for its work to develop the region’s economy.

It was particularly at the forefront of the bid to turn Yorkshire into a centre for a green energy revolution, which has the potential to bring thousands of jobs to the region from manufacturing the developing renewable energy technology.

There were fears that its abolition would lead to in-fighting between the smaller partnerships, which the coalition has put in charge of boosting local economies.

It was also feared that whereas Yorkshire could compete against regions in other countries, Leeds, Sheffield or York would fail to pack as much of a punch.

Although the association deal falls short of the Yorkshire Enterprise Partnership Mr Dodd had pushed for – a formal organisation to co-ordinate region-wide work alongside the LEPs – it is seen as a highly significant move.

‘This statement is tangible recognition of the value of the Yorkshire brand and the desire of the business community throughout Yorkshire to work together and make this a great place to locate and grow business,” said Mr Dodd.

Comment: Page 10.

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