Over 130 people packed into the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s first Annual General Meeting at Durham County Cricket Club’s Riverside Suite on 13 November.
Speakers included North East LEP board members Anne Isherwood, principal of SunderlandCollege, Jeremy Middleton of Middleton Enterprises and Edward Twiddy, director of the North East LEP.
Paul Woolston chaired a lively questions and answers session between the audience and a panel consisting of board members Andrew Hodgson, chief executive of SMD, Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council and Edward Twiddy. The questions focused on skills development, funding and investment for transport infrastructure, procurement policies, the importance of tourism and rural broadband.
Paul Woolston summed up the work of the North East to date as “remarkable” and said “There is much to report, much to celebrate and much still to do.”
Thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds of investment have been brought to the North East LEP area through its success in attracting funding and national initiatives to underpin sustainable regional economic growth.
He added: “We have set ambitious targets and brought major funds to the region, including European Structural Funding 2014-2020, Regional Growth Funds and Growing Places Funding, the latter two of which allowed us to create the £55m North East Investment Fund.
“More and better jobs for the North East is our priority and it is heartening to see that we have already created or safeguarded thousands of jobs through the North East Enterprise Zones, support for major developments and improved access to finance for SMEs.”
The North East LEP’s first review, covering 2011-13, shows that the region’s economy is growing. Based on GVA (gross value added), the North East economy is performing better than anywhere else in England outside of London and the South East. However, the low regional employment rate means the North East LEP area is below average on GVA per head, partly due to the higher rate of public sector employment, which provides a lower GVA per head than private sector jobs.
Informed by the Adonis Review, the North East LEP’s review focuses on six key themes to fuel regional growth – making, trading, innovating, connectivity, skills and community.