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North East LEP seeks new board member

As Chair of the North East LEP, I head up a board of talented representatives from the region’s private, public and education sectors. Alongside the Leaders and Elected Mayors from each of our seven local authority areas, the board members help to guide the strategy and direction of the North East LEP.

We’re now seeking a new board member who has the passion to help us drive forward the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) for the region, bringing economic growth to the North East.

It’s an exciting time to join us here at the LEP, as we continue to make progress towards our target of adding 100,000 more and better jobs to the region’s economy by 2024.

Already, since we launched the SEP three years ago, we’ve added more than 55,000 new jobs to the regional economy and we believe that, working together with the wider business community, we can achieve our ambitious targets for growth.

Our board members are champions for the region and we are fortunate to have some of the North East’s leading figures in business and education already working with us. Their experience, insight, and belief in the North East is vital to our work.

This is a truly exciting opportunity for a representative of the region’s private sector to join the board and we are looking forward to welcoming a new member to play an active role in supporting the economic growth of our region.

So if you have a detailed understanding of the challenges and opportunities which face us here in the North East; proven business experience and a strong insight into a range of business sectors; and the commitment to help us bring more and better jobs to the region, then we want to hear from you.

Board members are appointed for an initial term of three years, with the option to serve up to six years. This non-executive post is not remunerated. A detailed job description can be viewed here.

To find out more about the opportunity, contact Jim Allcroft at NRG on 0191 260 4483 / 07968 862 638 or by email to [email protected]


Andrew Hodgson, Chair, North East LEP

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New £10 million property fund launched in North East

A £10million property fund aimed at supporting smaller scale North East construction and property development projects will provide an important boost for the construction industry.

The idea for the fund was conceived by FW Capital, the investment company based in the North of England, who will now manage the North East Property Fund. The fund is backed by Santander and the North East LEP and is held by NPF 2016 Ltd, a special purpose vehicle set up by directors Michael Smith and Geoff Hodgson for this purpose.

The North East Property Fund has been created in response to strong demand from small and medium-sized (SME) construction and property development companies who are unable to access mainstream finance from traditional sources and is hoped it will help kick start development in smaller scale property ventures across the North East.
“Santander is proud to support this new venture which will have a tangible impact on the local North East economy, including significant job creation,” said Stephen Carmichael, Relationship Director, Santander Corporate & Commercial.


“This is a brand new fund concept in the North East combining both public and private money to benefit SME property developers in the region. We were pleased when FW Capital approached us and the North East LEP about the fund idea. It’s a bold and compelling initiative that is confronting head-on the urgent need to deliver more new-build property.”


The fund will provide loans from £250,000 to £1 million for non-speculative residential and commercial developments in Tyne & Wear, Northumberland and County Durham. Typical repayment terms are between nine and 18 months.
Like other regions in the UK, smaller construction and property development companies have struggled to access finance from traditional lenders, leading to a new-build deficit in residential and commercial properties. This has in turn led to housing shortages in the area.


In terms of the North East itself, an estimated 6,440 homes were built last year vs an annual target of 9,000; only 1,420 of the 3,800 target for affordable homes were built in the region; this shortfall is compounding the legacy deficit year on year.


David Land, the North East LEP Investment Panel Chair said: “The North East Property Fund will tackle a pressing need identified in the region’s Strategic Economic Plan to build more homes which in turn will help drive economic growth.


“Our ambition is for the North East to return to pre-recession housing rates of more than 6,000 new houses a year and this new fund provides smaller construction firms with the confidence to pursue projects to build vital new housing.


“A similar fund in Wales has had a proven impact and demand to access this type of investment in our region is strong.”


The fund is based on the highly successful Wales Property Development Fund that has been operating for almost four years within the Finance Wales Group. FW Capital is part of the Finance Wales Group and they currently manage a number of funds in the North of England.


“At FW Capital we’re able to combine our existing local knowledge with shared expertise regarding property fund management in the wider Finance Wales Group,” explained Fund Manager Joanne Whitfield. “We’ve supported some excellent companies in the North East over the last seven years with a range of growth finance solutions from short-term loans to mezzanine and equity finance.


“We’re looking to expand our offering so that developers here in the North East will benefit from similar success we’ve seen in Wales with the Wales Property Development Fund. We pride ourselves on being a trusted finance partner of small and medium businesses across the North of England and we are delighted to be able to offer this new product to support smaller developers to grow.


The fund will operate on a commercial basis and by reinvesting returns into future projects it has the potential to provide over £30 million of finance into smaller developers over the next five years.


It aims to finance the build of over 300 new homes and finance the development of around 4000 square metres of commercial space. This is forecast to contribute in excess of £25m to the regional economy, creating or safeguarding over 600 local jobs.


Square One Law acted for FW Capital on setting up the Fund, Ward Hadaway acted for Santander and DWF acted for the North East LEP. PwC and UNW provided financial due diligence services to Santander and the North East LEP.


The team at Square One Law has been involved in the creation of over 25 funds . Mark Lazenby, Partner and Head of Finance, said: “The creation of a property fund for the North East is great news. This is the first time a fund like this has been set up in England and it will build on the great work FW Capital has done with the Wales Property Development Fund as well as assisting the North East LEP to deliver its Strategic Economic Plan.

“The use of innovative funding structures like this to help recycle public monies and create public/private partnerships

will be a good way to help sustain economic growth in the North East.”


Businesses wishing to apply for investment from the fund should contact Tony Cullen at FW Capital on 0191 269 6966, email Tony at [email protected] or visit http://www.fwcapital.co.ukfor more information.

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In conversation: Ammar Mirza CBE discusses why its important to have a plan

We caught up with Board member, Ammar Mirza CBE, who discussed the Strategic Economic Plan and why its important to set goals:

Without a plan you can’t have a goal.

Without a goal you cannot score.

The most successful people in the world have a clear vision of where they are going and a map on how they are going to get there. Having worked now with hundreds of start-ups and even more existing businesses, the ones’ that are the most successful have a business plan that they can share and have a singled minded focus on realising their goals and objectives from this plan.

I am pleased to say that, as a public and private partnership body responsible for providing strategic economic leadership in Northumberland, Durham, and Tyne and Wear – we have a plan. The Strategic Economic Plan(SEP) was first published in 2014 and since then the economy has changed, so over the past year a refresh of the plan has taken place and earlier this month the refreshed plan launched.

The SEP defines a clear vision that aims to help create 100,000 new and better jobs by 2024 and to ensure that 60% of these jobs are better jobs. A better skilled role is defined as one which offers higher skilled, more productive and better quality opportunities to more people in our area.

Since 2014 over 53,700 new jobs have been created within our region of which 33,900 (63%) are better. These figures highlight the positive impact of having a plan and focusing doggedly on delivering that plan.

Recognising the challenges within a dynamic economy and the uncertainty that Brexit could bring are key. As such the revised plan focuses on creating an inclusive economy improving innovation, tackling skills shortages, enhancing business support through the likes of the Growth Hub, recognising the aging population, investing in digital alongside improving overall infrastructure.

Without partners and working in collaboration, the LEP would not be able to deliver the plan. With limited resources the LEP is wholly dependent upon people coming together to help strengthen the economy and address weaknesses through a range of cohesive activities and programmes. In fact the growth of our region, reduction in unemployment and improvement in job opportunities has to be attributed to everyone within the whole community.

Every single member of the community has a role to play, and I am really pleased to say that everyone I speak to is both interested in hearing about the plan, but even more importantly understanding how they can get involved. On my weekly radio show every Friday between 9-11am on Spice FM, we have a mission to help better communicate, collaborate and celebrate within our region. Co-hosted by Jalf Ali, we regularly discuss the Strategic Economic Plan so that people from diverse communities get to understand our ambitious vision for the region.

The simple, yet challenging targets of creating “more and better jobs” enables everyone within the community to get behind a plan with a single focus of improving our economy, helping realise and raise ambitions and aspirations.

We have a plan and a clear goal, so let’s get out there and score.

Ammar Mirza CBE- Chairman and Founder of Asian Business Connexions.

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North East LEP reaction to latest employment data

The North East economy is performing positively against a number of key indicators but the stubborn challenge of unemployment remains a concern, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership said today commenting on the latest ONS employment statistics.

Helen Golightly, North East LEP Chief Operating Officer, said that the rise in the number of people out of work between last November and January was concerning, but that deeper analysis of data revealed a more buoyant regional economic picture.

“The North East economy is performing positively with a strong base making us more resilient to the challenges posed by a rise in unemployment,” said Helen.

“The longer term picture shows that the number of people out of work a year ago was a full percentage point higher than it is now and we still have near record numbers of people in work.

“Over the past three years, the number of full-time workers in the North East has grown from 804,000 to 857,000 – in the past 12 months alone 16,000 more people found full-time work.

“We’ve seen a particularly healthy growth in the number of young people finding employment and amongst people aged 50 to 64 in the year up to last September.

“There has also been a 20% fall in the number of 16 to 24-year-olds unemployed and a 15% drop in the number of 25 to 34-year-olds out of work during that period.”


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North East LEP Autumn Statement reaction

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership today welcomed Government focus on boosting productivity through infrastructure, innovation and business growth measures in the Autumn Statement.

Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair said:

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s focus on raising national productivity through substantial infrastructure and innovation investment mirrors the approach of the North East’s Strategic Economic Plan.

We welcome the Chancellor’s recognition that we are making a stronger contribution to the national economy through the creation of more and better jobs.

The Government has committed to investing £23bn into a National Productivity Investment Fund to boost innovation and infrastructure over the next five years which provides opportunities for our region to exploit.

We welcome the Chancellor’s focus on 5G broadband development through a £1bn fund and trials programme – the region has written to the Chancellor with a proposal to create a trial site for 5G in the North East.

The £220m funding for pinch points on strategic roads gives the North East an opportunity to further develop schemes in relation to the strategic highway network in the region.

Investment into the ultra-low emission vehicles sector represents a major opportunity for the North East with its strong automotive sector and highly developed low carbon vehicle programme.

We are delighted that our joint proposal for a Science and Innovation Audit with other Northern LEPs will be going ahead in round two.

A group of tax changes will benefit companies in the region’s rural and urban communities.

We look forward to learning in the coming days the allocation of funding to the individual Northern LEPs through the Local Growth Fund to finance strategic capital projects.

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Today’s employment figures: Sustained job creation and falling unemployment

Richard Baker, North East Local Enterprise Partnership Head of Strategy and Policy, said today’s Office for National Statistics employment data continued to demonstrate a longer term picture of positive labour market performance in the North East.

“Employment in the North East now stands at another record high this quarter at 1.215 million people, that’s 51,000 more people in work than 12 months ago,” said Richard.

“The rate of growth in the number of people in employment in our region is growing faster than the English average both over the last quarter and the previous year, which is very encouraging.

“We are continuing to narrow the employment rate gap with the English average.

“Today’s figures also show that the number of people out of work has fallen again, by 20,000 in the three months to September and nearly 30,000 fewer people in unemployment now compared to one year ago.

“We are also seeing a continuation in the rise of permanent jobs for both men and women which is encouraging.

“It remains a concern however that the number of people economically inactive is rising.

“The reasons for this are unclear from this data but could be related to a fall in the number of people in self-employment in the North East over the past year, in contrast to the national trend, and unstable jobs.

“This requires further investigation into what is a complex picture. Our concern is to ensure that the quality of employment opportunities continues to improve.”

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Leading businessman Andrew Hodgson new North East LEP chair

Respected regional business leader Andrew Hodgson has been appointed the new chair of the North East LEP.

The chief executive of Tyneside-based Soil Machine Dynamics Limited (SMD) was elected chair at the LEP board meeting to succeed Paul Woolston, who stood down after five years at the helm of the organisation.

Andrew is a highly-respected leader in the subsea engineering industry, a recipient of three Queen’s Awards for Industry.

He is a former North East Business Executive of the Year, EY Entrepreneur of the Year, EEF’s UK Manufacturing Champion and was awarded an OBE for his work in Manufacturing and the North East economy.

SMD is recognised as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of remote intervention equipment, operating in some of the planet’s most hazardous environments.

Andrew’s appointment has been welcomed by the private and public sectors.

Andrew said: “It is a privilege to have the opportunity as the new North East LEP Chair to work with the public and private sectors to help grow the regional economy.

“The foundations are in place for this growth to continue thanks to the work of Paul Woolston and the team at the LEP in securing £1.5bn in funding to fuel new business growth and job creation.

“With all the opportunities that the devolution of powers from central Government will present the North East economy, we face a once in a generation opportunity to really transform our region. We must also ensure that the current momentum is not lost as we establish what devolution means to us.

“I’ve spent my career growing world class businesses both here in the North East and internationally. I will use my knowledge and that of the LEP board to create more and better jobs. We will make investments into the regional economy that will stimulate growth and allow us to seize these new opportunities.”

James Ramsbotham, North East Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, said: “Andrew is a world-class business leader and his appointment as LEP Chair will ensure that business and its priorities are at the very heart of the LEP’s activities.”

Sarah Glendinning, Regional Director of the CBI, said: “Andrew’s appointment is excellent news for the region at a time when strong leadership and proven business acumen are needed to ensure we maximise the opportunities devolution presents us.”

Simon Hanson, Development Manager of FSB, said: “Paul Woolston did an outstanding job for the North East. The FSB is delighted that Andrew has stepped up to follow in his footsteps and continue to do the North East proud.”

Councillor Simon Henig, Chair of the North East Combined Authority and Leader of Durham County Council, said: “Paul Woolston has created a strong foundation for the North East economy to grow and I wholeheartedly support Andrew’s appointment to lead the LEP through the next phase. He has a deep understanding of the North East LEP from his time as vice-chair and is ideally placed to take the organisation forward.”

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New features unveiled on North East Growth Hub

New business support platform, the North East Growth Hub (www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk), has unveiled one of the most comprehensive business event listings for the region as part of a raft of new features.

Developed by the North East LEP, in partnership with Escher Group, the new events feed adds to the growing list of resources available to the North East business community via the new platform.

Visitors to www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk can now access the very latest business news, details of business-to-business events across the North East and talk direct to the National Business Support helpline via an online webchat.

The new features follow months of discussion with the North East business community about how to shape and develop the North East Growth Hub that when finished, will be the go-to resource for North East companies looking for information and advice on business support and finance.

Colin Bell, Growth Hub Project Manager, said: “It’s very exciting to be able to launch new features of the North East Growth Hub, especially now we’re in close consultation with North East businesses.

“We’re already hard at work on the next phase of development that will introduce a Knowledge Centre; a place for businesses to access information and guidance on everything from funding and finance to business improvement.

“We’re also developing Growth Hub Communities, a new area of www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk for business people to share advice, knowledge and guidance on specific topics.”

Businesses across the North East are being invited to add their events to the North East Growth Hub by visiting www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk/add-your-event

Companies can also sign-up to contribute to the ongoing content and feature development of the North East Growth Hub by visiting negrowthhub.co.uk/register-your-interest

Bob Paton, chief executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The measure of success for the North East Growth Hub will be its engagement with the business community.

“We all know the North East is a great place to do business; we’re collaborative, supportive and actively encourage new talent.

“The North East Growth Hub is somewhere businesses can share knowledge and experience to support economic development in the region. Collectively, we can create more and better jobs for the North East.”