LEP Chair calls for devolution focus
In an open letter, Sir Nigel Knowles, Chair of Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), has called on local politicians to keep focused on devolution. He said:
“Our devolution deal hangs in the balance. Local and national turbulence, a damaging court case and the actions of two County Councils who have chosen to put their own interests above those of businesses or residents has left our local politicians uncertain about what to do next.
“My view, and that of the private sector board members on the Local Enterprise Partnership is unequivocal – we remain fully committed to devolution and will do everything we can to help the local politicians achieve a deal for our region and their respective areas.
“For the first time in a generation this city region has returned to economic growth led by the private sector. Growth built on the back of growing productivity in advanced manufacturing and materials specialisms, in value added logistics, rail engineering and growth in digital tech and professional services. Confidence within and confidence about our city region has never been higher. It is a confidence reflected in our changing urban landscape and in those businesses growing their workforce and investing in new equipment or ways of doing things.
“If we are to keep this forward momentum then as a region we need to re-create that ‘first mover’ advantage which was so effectively deployed to deliver the first fruits of devolution. This first mover advantage is a necessity if the region is to really benefit from the opportunities which will come from an industrial strategy which at least in part requires local delivery and local devolution to work. A confident, focussed and well led partnership between the private and public sectors speaks volumes to Government about our ability to deliver.
“It is in this context that the private sector need to help Local Authorities take the next step to achieve more and better devolution. We all recognise that as a consequence of Chesterfield and Bassetlaw withdrawing from the Mayoral Combined Authority process and because of the changed national political landscape, the devolution agenda is in a state of flux and is changing. The answer to a changed position cannot be to do nothing. This risks everything in terms of economic growth and opportunity. Central Government and Local Government have a dual responsibility to find a way forward which sustains and where possible accelerates the devolution of power, responsibility and resources to support growth and productivity in our economy. We all need to maintain a focus on growth and make devolution happen.”