The position of Chair of the North East LEP was always going to be daunting, not least with big shoes to fill following my predecessor Andrew Hodgson’s outstanding tenure.
The good news is that I step into the role at an organisation which is in excellent shape despite the best efforts of COVID-19. This is thanks to Andrew Hodgson, a strong and committed board that has a real breadth and depth of experience, and an executive team so ably led by Chief Executive, Helen Golightly.
Few people would argue that the current climate represents a time of real challenge, but as it’s been said many times before, challenge brings opportunity and I know this region thrives on adversity and making things happen.
So for me, this is a time of potential in which we have to address the severity of the situation left by COVID-19, while finding a new path forward that allows us to build a region that suits our needs and creates competitive advantage as we move into the future.
The North East LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan is a great place to start. This continues to provide us with the blueprint needed to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.
The Coronavirus pandemic may have radically changed the labour market and the overall economy, meaning we have a lot further to go to reach our targets – but we have the right data and understanding to inform our decision-making and shape a more accurate narrative about the North East.
We have a plan that takes into consideration how the region has been impacted by COVID-19 and, working with government, it’s a plan which is focused on the interventions that will help the North East thrive and ensure no one is left behind.
I’m proud that the North East LEP, in collaboration with the North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities, the CBI on behalf of business, and wider partners, launched the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group to implement a five-point plan to support the economy, build resilience and prepare for recovery. This has enabled us to help businesses stay operational, keep people in employment, collaborate to find solutions to new challenges and use our collective voice and influence with government.
Partnership working remains a key priority for the North East LEP – it is the way we will successfully secure new opportunities and find solutions to the longer-term, endemic issues facing the region.
COVID-19 may have taken us further away from the goals in the Strategic Economic Plan, but now is the time to do exactly what the North East does best.
We will go again, with ambition and determination, just as before. Please watch this video, which tells the story much better than I can. I’m inspired by it and I hope you will be too.