A new Five Point Recovery Plan from LEPs that focuses on skills, green investment, and targeted stimulus has been published this week and aims for a ‘ground-up’ approach to help get local economies firmly back on the route to recovery.
The plan is based on five central pillars of local recovery focussing on:
- How LEP recovery plans can be utilized as the basis for local recovery.
- Doubling down on capital projects and financial stimulus that can reap significant benefits.
- Exploiting skills gaps with an ambitious agenda that puts people at the heart of recovery.
- Accelerating green growth initiatives that enable regions to build back greener.
- A multi-year settlement for LEPs that will secure and deliver a successful local recovery.
Chair of the LEP Network, Mark Bretton, said “The challenges of COVID 19 puts us at a critical point in the country’s history. Never has our economic wellbeing and way of life been so substantially changed at such a pace. Yet neither has there been a greater opportunity to substantially change the way we work, live, and travel in the UK. That’s what drives our Five Point Recovery Plan.
“LEPs are exploiting their local evidence base and intelligence data to forge their local recovery plans in partnership with business, local authorities, HE and FE, and the third sector. That’s why a ‘ground-up’ recovery based on the five points outlined in our plan and local place-based expertise, will be the bedrock of our national recovery.”
As business-led partnerships with 330 business leaders on their Boards, LEPs are key to enabling a growth led local recovery. The five Point Plan details specific actions that can help drive up local growth and achieve the greatest return.
- Local Recovery: Utilising the unrivalled understanding and insight LEPs have of their local economies from an evidence base built up over years and real time economic and market intelligence as the basis for a ground-up recovery.
- Stimulus: Local recovery demands some form of early fiscal stimulus that can help boost jobs and build economies. Enterprise Zones fit that bill well - providing an initial springboard to exploit innovation and technology. They are big drivers in promoting the formation of innovative clusters, R&D and other sectors that help stimulate regional recovery, going on to become economic engines of the local economy. Investment in more catalysts and catapults can also help drive an early recovery, and investment in the capital equipment in these facilities helps remove barriers to entry for small firms, giving them faster growth and a more successful trajectory.
- Skills: LEPs are having major successes with Local Digital Skills Partnerships, and LEP Skills Advisory Panels are bringing together key partners across economic areas to develop evidence-based policy. We now need to see more rapid progress on the National Retraining Scheme and innovative use of the Apprenticeship Levy and the Adult Skills Fund as tools to aid the recovery interventions. We also need to see additional intervention in pre-apprenticeship /traineeship programmes, and specific action on skills related to low-carbon industries and modern methods of construction.
- Green Innovation: LEPs are already driving local action to achieve net zero emissions and capitalising on clean growth opportunities but this will require collaboration across many sectors and boundaries. LEPs are achieving innovative projects working with the private sector in developing responses to future energy challenges including working on large scale plans with companies like Drax, Equinor and others, as well as creating new battery technology centres and working towards future gigafactories.
- Fund the Task: LEPs are apolitical brokers tasked with delivering local economic growth. But as LEPs’ responsibilities have grown rapidly since their inception, along with the size of the funds they control, and the additional responsibilities with Growth Hubs, the introduction of Skills Advisory Panels, Digital Skills Partnerships, and Careers Hubs etc., funding has not kept pace with these responsibilities. With LEP settlements remaining largely unchanged for a decade effectively resulting in a 30% drop, they rely on ‘just in time’ funding for the year ahead. LEPs need that responsibility recognized with a multi-year settlement equal to the task and the vital role they play in supporting business and local economic recovery.