New agency warns of wait for changes

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Transformational change will not happen overnight, according to the organisation tasked with raising the profile of Leeds and attracting investment and visitors to the city.

In its first annual report, Leeds and Partners said it was “at the beginning of a journey” to boost the economy and create jobs.

Work so far has focused on creating a unified team with one clear remit from its predecessors – Locate in Leeds, Conference Leeds, Visit Leeds and Marketing Leeds – and “delivering an essential programme of organisational transformation to become fit for purpose with a focus on governance, capability and capacity”.

This has included overhauling “inherited corporate and financial governance arrangements” and appointing an in-house accountant and director of finance after “significant areas for concern” were raised around transparency, accountability and efficiency.

The company has also begun bringing in investment, focusing on the health and innovation; digital and information; financial and professional services sectors.

It received 227 enquiries from firms outside Leeds in 2012/13, of which 14 per cent were from outside the UK. Work to convert 39 “active” projects is under way including a digital project which could create 250 jobs.

An agreement with US health firm Alere that could see it create a UK base and hundreds of jobs 
in the city is also hailed as a “significant foreign investment project”.

Other successes include bringing conferences including two “major” international events to Leeds, generating more than £850,000 in direct business with an estimated £2.5m economic boost, and securing £580,000 from the Regional Growth Fund to boost visitor numbers and create 300 jobs.

The report shows the company spent £1.3m in 2012/13, exceeding its £1m income. This was because “opportunity was identified to bring forward expenditure” in a number of areas, it said, adding that funds have been earmarked to replenish reserves in 2013/14.