Written evidence submitted by Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LRS0031)

Introduction

This submission is made by Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). 

Hertfordshire LEP was formed in 2011.  It brings together partners from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors from across Hertfordshire and its Board has a chair from the private sector.  It is playing a central role in determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities to drive growth and create local jobs.

Although Hertfordshire is generally seen as a prosperous southern local economy, there are substantial contrasts within it.  There is much evidence to suggest that levels of inequality are high – as the maps below from the Indices of Deprivation demonstrate. Hertfordshire has some very prosperous communities, but in parts of the county – particularly in the New Towns/Garden Cities and in south east Hertfordshire (close to London) – there are also very disadvantaged households and communities. Being ‘poor in a rich place’ is very hard, particularly given the nature of the housing market and the cost of living more generally.

‘Levelling up’ is as important within sub-regions as it is between them. 

Figure 1: Perspectives on Hertfordshire from the Indices of Deprivation

A: Overall Index of Multiple Deprivation

B: Housing domain[1]

Produced by SQW 2019. Licence 100030994

Question 1:  Evidence Basse

Hertfordshire LEP has devoted significant time and attention to developing its evidence base and this has informed successive iterations of its Strategic Economic Plan (SEP); its Local Industrial Strategy (LIS); and now its Recovery Plan.  Some of this evidence has been gathered for the county as a whole, but much of it has more granular detail, reflecting differences within Hertfordshire.

Examples of the evidence base include:

Economic Outlook 2018
Brexit and Hertfordshire
Skills and Labour Market Review 2018
East of England Science and Innovation Audit
Loss of Employment Space
 

In addition, in the context of the COVID19 crisis, Hertfordshire LEP has published regular updates on the local economic effects.  There are available on the LEP website (www.hertfordshirelep.co.uk)

These different parts of the evidence base have variously drawn on secondary data but also primary evidence gathered through surveys and consultations with businesses, communities and stakeholders from across the county, and beyond.

However, there is a big step between evidence and strategy.  The latter must be based on the former, but there is also a political dimension to strategy that needs to be recognised, particularly in the context of seeking to prioritise resources.  The analysis that the LEP is able to provide to give much needed context to the evidence is crucial for informed decision-making.

Within Hertfordshire, we are convinced that we have made the right decisions.  This means that resources have been invested in response to the clearest opportunities to make a real difference.

 

Question 2:  Local Structures

Structures within Hertfordshire

Within Hertfordshire, our local structures have served the county well over recent years.  We benefit from co-terminosity between the LEP area and the upper tier of local government and this has facilitated good levels of engagement and communications, and overall alignment.

Within the county, the LEP is working alongside Hertfordshire County Council and the ten districts and boroughs as an active partner within Hertfordshire Growth Board.  This is seeking to respond to the overall growth challenges facing the county, particularly (but not exclusively) in relation to housing and infrastructure.  Within this context, the LEP’s role is clearly focused on economic growth and it is advancing the development of key sectors and clusters, championing investment in skills and workforce development, supporting new and established businesses, encouraging innovation and seeking to secure inward investment.  It is also seeking to inform discussions around both place-shaping and connectivity, so as to align the opportunities, imperatives and potentials that surround Hertfordshire’s economy.

The LEP’s governance structure is illustrated in the graphic below.  We are responsible for delivering some major programmes, including those funded through Local Growth Fund (LGF), Growing Places Fund (GPF), European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF), and – as of July 2020 – Getting Building Fund. 

Delivery is overseen by three Programme Boards (each of which draws together specialist expertise from the private and public sectors across Hertfordshire) and a Partnership Board for our Enterprise Zone (Herts IQ). 

Responsibility for strategy and major decisions about resource allocation remain with our main LEP Board.  In parallel, our Programme Management Committee provides an on-going scrutiny and audit function.  All of this is aligned with the requirements of our Assurance Framework.

 

 

Figure 1:  Hertfordshire LEP - Governance

 

Overall, we consider that these structures serve Hertfordshire’s purposes well.  Looking ahead, we would welcome more flexibility to focus resources on opportunities which are potentially game-changers, recognising that these typically have both a spatial and sectoral/technological dimension. 

One example is the huge potential surrounding cell and gene therapy.  Over recent years, substantial early stage investment (approaching £1bn) has been secured in Hertfordshire in what are, currently, pre-revenue businesses; this gives some sense of the scale of the opportunity.  This has arisen in part because of earlier public investment in both the Catapult’s advanced manufacturing facility and the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst which are co-located on the site of GSK.  The future growth of this cluster will depend in large part on the creative use of employment sites and premises in the immediately surrounding area.  This is Gunnels Wood Road, one of the major employment areas in Stevenage, which in turn is one of Hertfordshire’s New Towns and in need of regeneration.  A resourced delivery vehicle developed around this – perhaps something like an Enterprise Zone – could achieve a great deal – for Stevenage, for Hertfordshire and for the UK.

Structures beyond Hertfordshire

In addition, we think it is important for on-going dialogue at a broader spatial scale.  Hertfordshire LEP has been central to the formation of Catalyst South, a grouping of six southern LEPs.  These areas are facing similar issues in economic growth terms and many of our key sectors and clusters have footprints that naturally span the boundaries between individual LEPs.  All six local economies have a strong international dimension and throughout, relationships with London are really important.  On certain strands of activity – perhaps international promotion especially – we believe that a coordinated approach could achieve a great deal. 

Hertfordshire LEP is an active member of the national LEP Network which is currently chaired by our own Chair.  This is providing a good opportunity for dialogue and shared learning, and it also helps to limit the risks of fragmentation across 38 English LEPs.

 

 

Question 3:  Stakeholder engagement

Hertfordshire LEP is a partnership organisation with a board comprising of representatives of local businesses (including SMEs),local authorities, higher and further education as well as the not for profit sector therefore everything it does involves stakeholder engagement – from the design and delivery of projects to much broader discussions around strategy.  For example, in the development of our Local Industrial Strategy a wide variety of engagement mechanisms were deployed, from online consultation, social media engagement, participating in existing public forums, business seminars and events to face-to-face locality and industry round-tables.

 

Question 4Sustainable local economies

Hertfordshire LEP is fully committed to a green recovery.  This was a theme that came strongly through our consultation on the Local Industrial Strategy last summer and we are embracing it fully.

Since its formation, our Enterprise Zone (Herts IQ) has had a strong focus on envirotech.  Within this, it is encouraging innovation and business growth.  It is facilitating links to two of our major research establishments:  BRE (the world’s leading building science centre) and Rothamsted Research (focused on environmental science and agritech).

BRE is a major asset in this context and we have worked closely with BRE throughout the LEP’s existence.  We are supporting BRE through a Getting Building Fund project.  With support from the LEP, two existing buildings on BRE’s campus, located in Bricket Wood, will be refurbished to create a 2,780 sqm Open Innovation Hub to accommodate start-ups and growing businesses. The hub will encourage and facilitate collaboration with a focus on clean growth and smart construction techniques; provide new commercial space for businesses to grow within the enterprise zone; and lead to the creation of 156 new jobs within the smart construction sector and supply chain.

The sustainable construction theme is very important to Hertfordshire more generally.  Hertfordshire is seeing significant house building, including major schemes at Gilston (part of Harlow Gilston Garden Town) and Hemel Garden Communities.  We are encouraging innovation in approaches to construction and embracing modern methods of construction (including offsite fabrication).

Hertfordshire LEP is also leading the way in relation to digital technologies.  It is putting in place measures to improve digital skills and it is also working with partners to improve digital infrastructures.  We see both as critical in seeking to build a more sustainable local economy. 

 

Question 5:  Targeted regional investment

Priorities should be defined in relation to the scale of potential opportunities and the probability that economic growth can be generated that is UK net additional.  The COVID-19 crisis has affected all parts of the UK.  Economic growth is therefore now a top priority in all parts of the country.

Our view is that investment should be focused on those assets that have the potential to be transformative, whilst also recognising that there are groups within the population that need targeted support (e.g. younger people, those facing redundancy, etc.)

In Hertfordshire, we would like to see various packages of investment embracing both R&D investment and some ‘shovel ready’ projects which are focused on small scale infrastructure improvements.

For example, we would welcome more R&D investment focusing on our emerging cell and gene therapy cluster.  This has global potential and we have evidence from businesses within it that if growth is not possible locally, the consequence will be international relocation.  Within this context, some ‘shovel ready’ projects could help.  The projects themselves might appear unremarkable, but they are important because of the role they might play within the wider cluster growth narrative.  One example would be investment in the gyratory at the entrance to GSK’s site.  Another could be a land assembly project on Gunnels Wood Road.

In similar vein, we would welcome more R&D investment focused on sustainable construction approaches.  We suggest that Gilston (part of Harlow Gilston Garden Town) and Hemel Garden Communities could be treated both as pilots for new methodologies as well as major schemes for housing delivery.  Our Enterprise Zone – Herts IQ – could be part of the response and we have already mentioned the importance of BRE in this context.

Third, we think there will be some investible projects linked to film and TV, particularly in the light of major new facilities which have been announced by Sky.  It may be that the most immediate need is related to workforce skills.  Within Hertfordshire we have pedigree on which to build in this context.

Overall, we would suggest that ‘shovel ready’ projects should not be advanced if their only merit is speed of delivery.  However, they can be transformative if they are embedded within a wider response to economic growth – with a clear rationale and theory of change.  We can point to several nationally significant opportunities in Hertfordshire which meet these criteria precisely.

 

6:  Regional funding

Hertfordshire has operated a very effective ESIF programme. It has used this to fund a number of business support interventions that couldn’t otherwise have been resourced, and the Growth Hub – which has been evaluated in very positive terms – is central to their delivery.  The ESIF programme is currently being flexed to deal quickly and effectively with the challenges posed by COVID-19.

LEPs ought to have the autonomy to direct UKSPF in response to specific local circumstances.  There is a need to focus on inequality, recognising that this is as corrosive within local economies as it is between them. It needs to be focused on people – and particularly those parts of the population that have been severely affected by recession.  Sometimes these are defined spatially (and we are aware in Hertfordshire that the impacts are acute in Broxbourne) and sometimes it is more appropriate to respond to the needs of particular groups (e.g. the class of 2020).  Moreover, different types of need ought to be considered; through the pandemic, we have become more attuned to the needs of those who are digitally disadvantaged and the LEP is putting in place a digital skills plan in response.  As well as responding to COVID, there is a need to respond to deep-seated issues; in Hertfordshire, several of our New Towns have particular challenges in this context.

Through all of this, however, we need to think about sustainability.  It is important that interventions which are aimed at tackling inequality are linked to those which could unlock economic growth.  We need to ensure that we train more people who are facing redundancy – but also that there are jobs they can do once they are trained, and that those jobs are here to stay. 

The LEP has the knowledge and insight to make these connections.  We see UKSPF as a core part of our funding machinery going forward and we will deliver it alongside other aspects of our programme.  There needs to be an integrated and holistic approach which links measures aimed at tackling inequality to those focused on growth.  The LEP – with its networks and 10 years of accumulated evidence, capacity and insight – can make this happen.

 

7Project speed

We would like to see Project Speed responding to the narratives set out in SEPs, LISs and emerging recovery plans.  Interventions need to ‘work with the grain’ and we think the local perspective is critical in this context.  As mentioned above, we believe strongly that inequality within regions is as divisive and damaging as that between them, and we would argue strongly in favour of a localised response that can help address this effectively. LEPs, through greater regional collaboration can play an effective role in prioritising critical infrastructure investment.

 

August 2020


[1] This is defined around indicators linked to affordability, overcrowding and homelessness