Looking Forward To A Stronger And More Resilient North East Economy

Issue 80

When I think back to the start of the pandemic in 2020, I will always remember that despite the fears and uncertainties we all faced, the rigour, commitment and sheer determination of our team, partners, businesses and communities to do the right thing - and continue to champion our region - did not falter.

As we emerge from the pandemic, I am so proud of the fact that, throughout all the challenges, the North East LEP has continued to make a positive contribution to the North East economy following the impact of COVID-19 and EU Exit.

Throughout this last year we remained delivery focused, despite a national policy vacuum caused by delays to the Levelling Up White Paper and national LEP review. We continue to develop our understanding of the labour market so we can see if our activity is working, or if we need to pivot or accelerate activities to meet changing circumstances and influence partners and government.

The Strategic Economic Plan has defined our direction of travel as we strive to create a stronger, greener and more inclusive economy for the region. During the 2021/22 financial year we published an interim evaluation of the North East Strategic Economic Plan, which assessed its effectiveness and impact, and implementation on the region’s economy. I’m happy to say the Plan is meeting its targets on job creation and better jobs, and moving in the right direction to reduce both the employment gap and the economic activity gap.

The evaluation gave us lots of recommendations to take forward and highlighted two positive points. It showed the North East LEP has excelled in providing leadership, influence, synergy and engagement around the Strategic Economic Plan. And our Local Growth Fund and Enterprise Zone programmes have, to date, indicated good to very good value for money.

Essential to the success of the North East Strategic Economic Plan is our work to drive forward its programmes of delivery. Our Business and Sector Growth team, for example, have provided support, advice and guidance to a large proportion of the region’s business community over the past 12 months. In total, the North East Growth Hub delivered 23,987 business interventions in 2021/22, and 96% of businesses surveyed were happy with the help they received, demonstrating the vital role Growth Hubs play in the regional business economy.

Our Skills team played a significant role in the national conversation around skills policy. Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, provided representation to the House of Lords Youth and Employment Select Committee, resulting in recommendations from the North East LEP being taken forward in the committee’s ‘Skills for every young person’ report. The North East LEP’s Skills team also hosted the launch of the 2022 National Careers Week, the first time the event has taken place in the North of England.

Key to driving more competitiveness and growth across the region, the Innovation team secured £1.03m in funding to deliver two innovation programs – Innovation Delivery Partnership and Challenge North East.

And investment and funding programmes managed by the North East LEP also made an impact across the region in 2021/22. All £47m awarded to the North East LEP area through the Getting Building Fund has been fully committed against 20 capital projects, and the £10.5m invested from the Local Growth Fund has helped create 1,500 new jobs in the North East.

2021/22 was also a very significant year for me personally as I was awarded an OBE for services to business and the regional economy. I am immensely proud and humbled to have been recognised in this way. I dedicated this honour to the whole North East LEP team because I feel so incredibly lucky to have people behind me who have commitment, passion and drive like no other – who strive to increase investment and improve skills, job opportunities and purposeful business support across the North East to improve the lives of others, because they want to do the right thing for a region that is so special to us all.

I end this year feeling hopeful, confident and determined.

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