In the past, economic development had always been done from the city and county halls but I think the approach of Local Enterprise Partnerships is having a real impact.
The private sector has brought a lot in terms of how we approach things, how do we do things. It’s provided a useful challenge and scrutiny to decision-making.
I was an original board member of what is now known as the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (Y&NY LEP) and have had the honour to serve both as chair and deputy chair.
As my time with the Y&NY LEP comes to a close later this month, there are certainly challenges for the region which lie ahead. However, I leave immensely proud of what has been achieved so far.
My role has involved being an ambassador for York and North Yorkshire and I’ve enjoyed going to Whitehall, banging the table and talking about our strong, rural region. I’ve wanted to ensure it is not forgotten and left behind other areas which are now devolved and have mayors and combined authorities in place.
I’ve enjoyed trying to raise the profile of a rural LEP, the countryside and agri-food, which is where my business background is from. These have been the two big challenges during my time – the fact that we’re not a devolved region, and that rural regional economies are not understood by central Government.
Looking back at my time at the Y&NY LEP, I believe we have delivered. We haven’t perhaps taken up every strategy and pursued every project the Government wanted us to pursue, we simply picked the ones which were key for the region and we delivered on them because that’s how we will be judged.
I think our Local Growth Fund project history is something to be proud of. If you’re going to do the job, why do it unless you’re actually going to make a difference on the ground? Allocating Government funds into skills, business and infrastructure projects has created economic growth.
Flood defences, opening up sites for commercial space, creating jobs – there have been numerous projects delivered by partners which are helping our region move forward. A project to redevelop Dalton Bridge, near Thirsk, stands out for me, as it’s a prime example of public and private sector collaboration.
That spirit of collaboration is also shining through with plans for reshaping the region’s economy, helping it become greener, fairer and stronger.
During my time, I have also enjoyed being utterly amazed at the number of businesses in our region that do such incredible things, and the resilience shown.
It’s been a wonderful journey and for the most time, we’ve been in a really positive position. I think partners, collaborators, the Y&NY LEP staff and boards have pulled together for the good of York and North Yorkshire.
It reflects that we have so many good people around us, and I can’t thank them enough for all the effort they have put into it. There is no way I could have chaired the Y&NY LEP if that hadn’t been the case. We must never forget we are a special region.
Our incoming chair Helen Simpson OBE, will I am certain continue in the same vein.
She has a lot of corporate experience at a high level and I have no doubt at all that the Y&NY LEP will be in very safe hands. I wish her the best in her new role and sign out with the same thing I have said on many occasions before – Onwards and Upwards!