Written evidence submitted by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LRS0052)

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership works with businesses, local authority partners and education institutions to drive growth and enterprise across Norfolk and Suffolk.

We welcome the opportunity to contribute to this post-pandemic economic growth inquiry – local and regional structures and the delivery of economic growth.

Norfolk and Suffolk has a strong record of working together across the public and private sectors to deliver sustainable growth. We are committed to working with government to get the economy back on its feet rapidly, in a way that makes it more resilient and innovative and benefits all our people.

Norfolk and Suffolk has global strengths in sectors critical to achieving a more resilient, sustainable economy and society - agri-food, energy and ICT. As the UK’s Clean Growth Region, we are committed to remaining at the forefront of tackling the challenges and opportunities of climate change.

Evidence base:

A robust evidence base is an integral part of developing strategies, interventions and making decisions across Norfolk and Suffolk. A shared evidence was developed with partners which is available on the LEP website for both the Norfolk and Suffolk Economic Strategy and Local Industrial Strategy

Both strategies were developed in partnership with business, education providers, VCSE and local authorities and is underpinned by this strong evidence base. The governments cross Whitehall Local Industrial Strategy Analytical group recognised the evidence report and in particular logic charts (which set out the links between the evidence, the interventions, and outcomes) as good practice and suggested it be used as an exemplar.

Working with partners we have continued to evolve this evidence base and are looking to launch an open source interactive platform later this year. This shared platform will support the development of plans and strategies across Norfolk and Suffolk, providing partners with a reliable and consistent source of economic data to inform action and investment decisions.

 

Consultations is an important aspect of our evidence base and development of interventions. During the development if the Local Industrial Strategy we held more than 20 consultation events with stakeholders involving around 400 individuals who helped to examine the economic evidence, developing ideas and testing proposed interventions.

In addition to this we have several other tools we use:

 

      Sector heat maps - considers the risks and opportunities for each sector covering – demand, supply chain, workforce and operations.

      Business support gaps analysis – sets out the identified gaps in government support schemes.

      Scenario planning – a series of scenarios which will build projections as to when the Norfolk and Suffolk economy could expect to return to pre-outbreak levels of growth.

      Sector snapshots – an illustration of the challenges and opportunities initially focused on critical sectors which will include some projected data based on a range of scenarios.

      Place snapshots - an illustration of the challenges and opportunities within a geographical area.

 

We also carry out an annual stock-take of progress with business, education and local authority leaders, which review progress and identify where changes are needed to reflect new economic or policy circumstances.

Additional resources and investment in analytical activity would be welcome, recognising the unprecedented range and diversity of data (Covid, Brexit, skills gaps, productivity, innovation, deficit, sustainability, net zero, inclusivity, etc) to ensure the evidence base directs investment where it is most needed.

Local structures:

The strength of local public and private collaboration should not be underestimated. Local partners have played a vital role during the pandemic understanding need and flexibly responding at pace, from ensuring people receive vital supplies, to swiftly administering grants to support local businesses.

Local Enterprise Partnerships play a vital role in bring all these partners together, enabling greater coherence in policy development and greater pace in delivery.

LEPs have worked well with a range of different local government structures across England, suggesting that no single structure is ideal, or necessarily better, for addressing business and economic development needs.
LEPs have distinct advantages in the organisation and some cases delivery of services to the local economy and businesses:
                                a strong and effective business voice that feeds into a realistic assessment of local economic development priorities.  Although operate in a robust way with a strong assurance framework, we are able to work in a relatively non-bureaucratic way that businesses can engage with.

In our role as local co-ordinators and brokers we can facilitate significant changes by working with and through others for relatively little cost. The core £19 million pa budget for the 38 LEPs in England represents extremely good value for money in the context of the large programmes we have had to administer and manage (such as the almost £13 billion Local Growth funding).

To deliver its levelling up agenda, government must drop down to a more granular level to ensure success. For example, Norfolk and Suffolk have some concentrated pockets of quite severe deprivation with some localised areas amongst the most deprived in the UK – 12.9% of lower super output areas in Norfolk and Suffolk are in the most deprived fifth nationally.

The area is the most deprived LEP area in the Greater South East. However, when this area is combined with other areas in the East of England i.e. Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, overall productivity levels increase, deprivation levels reduce and it does not reflect the true picture at a local level. So the levelling up agenda must take into account intra-regional imbalances as well as imbalances between regions.

Locally we have developed a Norfolk and Suffolk Inclusive Growth Framework to assess inclusive growth impacts.

Stakeholder engagement:

Business, education providers, VCSE, local authorities and the LEP have recognised we have always been most successful when we work together for the benefit of those who live in, work in, learn in and visit Norfolk and Suffolk.

New Anglia LEPs power of convening a broad range of partners across Norfolk and Suffolk is strong and has been at the heart of developing strategies and interventions that deliver economic gains. The most recent example was the ability to develop the Norfolk and Suffolk Economic Recovery Restart Plan in three weeks. It was developed with a wide range of partners – over 700 individuals and 100 organisations - and an evidence base which provides an analysis of the sectors which are the focal point of the Economic Recovery Plan. It sets out the actions that local partners are taking in the next 6 months to restart the Norfolk and Suffolk economy and supplements plans from individual partners. This plan aligns and supports the government’s national recovery plan.

The LEP has a range of different ways it engages with partners to ensure they are able to contribute to strategy and intervention development, decision making and delivery, including:

Sustainable local economies:

The focus on clean growth as set out in the Industrial Strategy must be maintained. This will drive economic recovery and growth in the right direction to meet the Net Zero goals, which are essential for ensuring a sustainable, resilient future where the UK can continue to compete globally.

Sector groups, industry councils, education providers, VCSE and local authorities across Norfolk and Suffolk have agreed that there needs to be a stronger focus on the environment and ensure clean growth is at the heart of economic recovery.

As the UK’s clean growth region Norfolk and Suffolk is at the forefront of tackling the challenges and opportunities of climate change. Strengths in energy generation and usage, and high-tech, sustainable agri-food present major opportunities, in particular the cross-sector opportunities which will have a major contribution to building a sustainable, resilient economy and the UK’s transition to a post-carbon economy.

To ensure success in delivering sustainable local economies leadership responsibilities should not be separated from delivery responsibilities. Addressing the challenges of climate change will require actions across society and by many different organisations. Leadership and coordination of interventions and actions between sectors is critical to achieving future clean inclusive growth.

Clean growth will not be achieved if it is not embedded within decisions, intervention development and delivery, it is not a separate piece of work and it will take time.

The LEP is playing a vital role in facilitating collaboration with partners to change the way we work, and the way decisions are made so that clean growth is considered at all stages. To achieve we have agreed the following steps:

Leadership and collaboration – Establishing a Clean Growth Taskforce whose members are ambassadors for the ‘UK’s Clean Growth Region’ and help drive forward and embed the clean growth framework across Norfolk and Suffolk and beyond.

Focus – Identify and agree to focus on the actions in areas that the LEP and partners can achieve the biggest gains and impact.

Evidence Work with Government to develop and agree robust ways of measuring and monitoring the impact of interventions and actions.

Action Work with partners to further develop the New Anglia Clean Growth Action Plan.

Clean growth cannot be delivered by one partner alone or by one strand of investment or actions. It is important that local partners play a role in developing the action plan to secure their buy in and for them to own their role in delivering.

Targeted regional investment:

Targeted investment is vital to

Innovation and digitisation - With many businesses facing cash flow constraints (one third of Norfolk and Suffolk businesses have less than three months of cash reserves) and higher operating cost, it is likely that investment in staff training and R&D will be the area where budgets are cut. Both of which will have an impact on productivity and ability to compete.

Local evidence shows that businesses who want to innovate require support, advice and access to finance to diversify and connect with the right people and businesses to make it happen. Expanding the cohort of local business advisers to include innovation and technical advisers or ambassadors would provide the support local businesses need.

Targeted regional investment and Regional funding:

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund needs to come into force as soon as possible. With enhanced local powers and distribution at a local level through LEPs and MCAs it would deliver significant impact on driving inclusive, productive, and local growth. Businesses have highlighted the need for more local powers to respond to the local business base and challenges such as Covid-19 and the threat of a no deal EU exit. 

Additional funds will help to deliver the ambitious interventions set out in the Norfolk and Suffolk Local Industrial Strategy, the recently published Economic Recovery Restart Plan and to enable more ambitious proposals in the longer-term Renew Plan – which will support people in Norfolk and Suffolk’s communities with skills and wellbeing; drive productivity and growth in the business base; and deliver the infrastructure requirements that are truly needed for communities and businesses to prosper.

Local Growth Fund and ESIF funding have been successfully delivered in Norfolk and Suffolk, all programmes fully committed to high quality strategic projects, with a strong pipeline of projects waiting for new opportunities. We had £75m of ‘shovel ready’ projects lined up for the Getting Building Fund (£32m secured), with more capital developments being planned, all of which will deliver significant potential impact for jobs and economic growth and resilience.

Existing local structure should be used to allocate funding using local strategies, evidence and governance mechanisms which provide a high level of assurance and ensure funding delivers economic returns.

Better alignment of capital and revenue funds is important and will enable swift actions and investments to have a quicker impact. Much of the activity that is needed to support people and business require revenue funding which is scarce. Currently the main source of revenue funding is European Structural Investment Funds. Therefore certainty of how the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will work is urgently needed.

Integration of the VCSE sector into funding programmes is vitally important, with recognition of the particular issues that the sector faces around match funding, and of the contribution they make to the wider economy, particularly the most deprived areas that are hardest to reach.

Flexibility of intervention rates and the ability to support a project with both capital and revenue funds would assist in quicker returns on the investment. Speed of recovery is important to ensure both businesses and skills are maintained, and that people are encouraged and able to enter the labour market.

Across Norfolk and Suffolk we endeavour to take a proactive approach to deliver the interventions that will support our businesses and individuals to grow and thrive.

We are developing an Investment Plan which captures the interventions that will deliver the ambitions and goals in the Economic Strategy and LIS – projects, programmes and initiatives – which require funding. It will enable us to be proactive in seeking funding and will ensure investment is made in interventions that will deliver the desired impact rather than funding projects just because they are ‘shovel ready’.

We have developed a common investment prioritisation framework, which is used to assess projects and actions relating to. This provides further transparency for all projects that receive support from one or a range of organisations and ensures that all investment is focused on those projects that will most effectively achieve our collective ambitions and targets.

Project Speed:

Recovery and growth should be distributed fairly across society and creating opportunities for all is vital to ensure the social and economic inequalities gap does not widen further within regions and across the UK.

To effectively deliver the levelling up agenda, government must drop down to a more granular level to ensure overall consistency across the UK and no area is left behind.

LEPs working with local private and public partners are in a strong position to help identify and distributing growth opportunities into communities across the country. The Norfolk and Suffolk Economic Strategy and Local Industrial Strategy are dynamic and living blueprint to guide the work and investment of many partners to deliver economic growth. The recently published economic recovery plan builds on these.

Local partners came together to agree these strategies and are all committed to aligning relevant actions and investment to the agreed priorities.

A number of tools and systems have been put in place to support this way of working:

To be most successful it is vital that support has a local angle to ensure the right support is provided for all regions to recover. Any criteria used to make decisions should be based on local data at a level that reflects the true picture as outlined in the response to question one.

The strong working relationship which has been built across business, education providers, public and the voluntary sector has been key to delivering success. The ability to work together effectively has enabled us to draw on the range of capabilities and capacity. The capacity and capabilities of LEPs have developed very considerably over the last decade.

However, to rebuild the economy, a multi-year investment in the organisations that will help to deliver on the ground is needed. Providing longer term assurance of core funding for LEPs, Growth Hubs and local councils would ensure delivery of recovery and growth of local areas. A lot of wasted time and effort is spent on survival and sourcing funds to maintain the staffing levels.

September 2020