The Driving Forward Economic Growth Conference, organised by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), attracted over 400 delegates to the one-day event at the Centre for Life, Newcastle.
Keynote speakers included Lord Andrew Adonis, chair of the North East Independent Economic Review, Lord Christopher Haskins, Chair of the Humber LEP and Gateshead Council leader and chair of the North East leadership board, Councillor Mick Henry.
The conference examined how far the region has come since Lord Adonis’s Review was published in April. It included panel discussions and workshop sessions exploring issues highlighted in the Review from job creation to accessing finance and the region’s infrastructure.
Lord Adonis said that what the region needs is “a single, unified approach, and one strategy on which we all agree.”
Both Lord Adonis and Lord Haskins agreed on the pivotal importance of skills to the region’s economy. Lord Adonis said: “Skills are transformational – n particular doubling the number of apprenticeships in the LEP area.”
North East LEP board member Andrew Hodgson, who is responsible for skills development alongside Sunderland College’s Anne Isherwood, said: “Lord Adonis’s review focused on the necessity of matching the region’s skills with the demands of the labour market and tackling the shortfall. Since the recommendations were published, the Business Secretary Vince Cable has chosen the region to develop a new skills model, which gives the North East LEP more influence on how skills funding is targeted.
“We are working with the North East Leadership Board of seven councils and the Skills Funding Agency to develop this skills model, with input from employers, colleges and training providers.”
The next steps, including creation of more and better jobs to drive the region’s role in the global economy, the North East’s Strategic Economic Plan and the 2014-2021 European Funding Strategy, were at the heart of the discussions.
Paul Woolston, chair of the North East LEP, said:
“It was heartening to see that there was standing room only at the conference, and a great response from delegates across all sectors to the speakers and panel discussions.
“It was good to welcome back the full review team led by Lord Adonis, and Lord Haskins, who gave an engaging, thought-provoking speech.
“The conference set out the next steps towards achieving the aims of the Adonis review and how we can move forward, creating more jobs and prosperity for the region.
“Our response, centring on the North East Strategic Economic Plan and European Strategy, shows the significant impact the review has already achieved.”
Councillor Mick Henry, Chair of the North East Leadership Board, said:
“We are already making real progress in implementing the recommendations from Lord Adonis.
“The Adonis Review has had a catalytic effect in the region, accelerating productive collaboration between universities, private and voluntary sectors and local authorities, on a shared agenda for economic growth.
“The Review strongly supports the establishment of a Combined Authority across the North East LEP area and we expect this to be operational by April next year. This will place the North East at the vanguard of new arrangements, to enable more devolution for local decision-making.”
Since Lord Adonis’ Review was published, the North East LEP has made a number of notable strides towards its recommendations. In July, it was awarded £7.5m in European funding from the fourth round of the Regional Growth Fund to boost the resources available to support small and medium sized companies; a North East Combined Authority is being formed; Professor Roy Sandbach was appointed to head the LEP’s innovation strategy, and the LEP was one of just three in the UK chosen by the Government to pilot innovative new approaches to skills development funding.
£25m of loans have been allocated by the LEP to projects in the North East LEP area in the last twelve months with a further £25m under consideration by the LEP’s investment panel.
Further information from Christine Holland, Holland PR & Marketing Ltd. Tel 01670 790246 or 07711 698246.