Ministers have given their backing to a new economic development partnership in the north-east of England.
The North East Economic Partnership (NEEP) will comprise all of the councils in the north-east and will act to support the work of the Tees Valley local enterprise partnership (LEP), and the new LEP for the north-east of England, which will comprise all the councils across the north-east, apart from those in the Tees Valley.
LGC understands that ministers are set to give the green light to the north-east LEP, which is distinct from the NEEP, in the new year*.
The move comes after ministers announced a first wave of 24 LEPs in October. Initially councils in the north-east had submitted six LEP bids, but only the Tees Valley proposal was given the go ahead, with ministers indicating that they preferred a single LEP for the remainder of the region.
In a letter to the Association of North East Councils and the North East Business Forum, business minister Mark Prisk and decentralisation minister Greg Clark said the NEEP proposal offered a “coordinated approach” to economic development in the north-east and “clearly articulates the economic inter-relationships” across the region.
The letter said: “The proposal provided clear evidence of strong leadership from the business community, primarily through representative bodies. There is clearly a strong desire from business for a north-east-wide approach on issues of common concern and we encourage that joint working to continue”.
Paul Watson (Lab), Sunderland City Council leader and Association of North East Councils chair said the NEEP would now move forward with plans to put in place shadow arrangements.
He said: “It is essential that we concentrate our efforts on re-balancing the economy and that we continue to make progress against the achievements we have been able to deliver so far through strong partnership working, which become ever more important in a tightening fiscal and increasingly competitive environment. Our main focus must be on delivering positive outcomes for people, businesses and communities.”
John Cuthbert, Northern Business Forum chair said the NEEP was the move was “a great opportunity for the region’s business and local authority leaders to work together to drive economic growth.”
The NEEP proposal identifies six functions which business and local authorities have agreed to seek to deliver across the region:
- promotion of productivity, enterprise and business growth through developing innovation and exploiting research and development capabilities
- the development of sectors that are strategic to the UK and are clustered in the north-east, such as low carbon vehicles, offshore wind, chemicals and process industries
- account managing and supporting enquiries for new investment from both existing businesses and inward investors;
- bidding for and programme managing the European Regional Development Funds and the Rural Development Programme for England funds
- the development and delivery of new approaches to financing and supporting business growth
- providing strategic input on other key related areas linked to economic growth
Earlier this week ministers also gave the green light to three LEPs covering Norfolk & Suffolk, Worcestershire and the Black Country.
* Clarification: this is an update of an earlier version of this piece, which described the NEEP as a new Local Enterprise Partnership. This, however, is not the case.
A Department for Business, Innovation & Skills spokeswoman said: “The NEEP is not a LEP. It’s an independent forum and as such it does not need the government’s official approval, although we do support it and expect to engage with it. The NEEP was established because business in the North East wanted a overarching body to look strategically across the region and promote co-operation between LEPs. And the Government supports that aim. The North East LEP, formed by the remaining seven authorities outside the Tees Valley, has not yet been approved but Ministers are currently considering their proposal and will make a decision soon, probably early in the New Year.”