Master Cutler, Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s a real pleasure to be here for the launch of Sheffield City Region’s Local Enterprise Partnership.
It’s appropriate we should be meeting here at the Cutler’s Hall, which marks the very industry that earned this city a global reputation for the peerless quality of its work.
As such, it’s a great symbol of your proud tradition of enterprise and wealth creation.
As a Government, we want you as local business and civic leaders to have the power to choose your own priorities for local growth and remove the barriers that may be holding back your area.
The LEP model
Our vision for local growth recognises the real economic geography of the country, and the markets that you trade and work in - not old artificial regional boundaries.
So I am delighted the members of this partnership have chosen to break through the old arbitrary boundaries and come together to nurture the real local economy, which takes in South Yorkshire and parts of the neighbouring East Midlands.
This is exactly what a LEP should be:
- setting the boundaries;
- an effective and equal partnership of local business and civic leaders who share an ambition to grow the economy;
- and creating wealth and jobs for the area.
It’s heartening that so many business and local leaders have risen to the challenge across the country.
Since September last year, 33 partnerships have started up and together they cover 92% of all businesses in England, and 93% of its population.
Sheffield City Region LEP
Many of these partnerships have already been successful in bidding for a share of the £450m allocated from the first tranche of the first round of the Regional Growth Fund.
A good example is the City Gateway project. The £18m awarded for investment in infrastructure and transport networks, will help transform the area and could create several thousand jobs.
Let’s not forget, either, that the Sheffield City Region LEP has been charged with overseeing the launch of an Enterprise Zone in this area, one of 21 announced by the Chancellor in this year’s Budget.
These zones will benefit from tax breaks, business friendly planning rules and super-fast broadband to really kick-start private enterprise locally. And the new business rates collected will be retained here and available and invested across the LEP area.
Both these schemes are examples of how together you can help lead local growth and job creation.
Accelerating local growth
I think it’s also a tangible sign that we are moving into a new phase with LEPs; from starting up they are now beginning to build momentum.
Of course, some partnerships have been able to draw on existing plans to power ahead. For others, just getting underway, it’s a slower journey. We recognise that some LEPs will need help to turn good ideas into practical action.
So I am pleased to announce today a package of measures to help LEPs accelerate local growth.
We are launching a £5m start-up fund, intended to finance operational support for LEPs that do not have existing support networks and services, on which they can draw.
Partnerships can bid for one-off funding. It might be used to cover the costs of buying new equipment; renting office space; or employing a member of staff - or anything else required to get the LEP up and running. But applications must show how the partnership will become self-financing in future.
Alongside the launch of the start-up fund, we have also notified LEPs of the results of the first round of applications to the capacity fund, which will run for the next four years.
Each of the 33 existing partnerships will receive a share of this year’s £1m pot - money they can use to analyse the structural challenges facing business in their area, so they can focus their activities, where they will have the greatest impact.
But we also recognise that partnerships need the ability to make sure their activities are complementing broader government efforts to power economic development.
So today we are also launching a practical toolbox for LEPs, which went live online this morning on my department’s website. It will allow partnerships to tap into good ideas from elsewhere and share what really works. It also offers a wealth of information about what Whitehall departments are doing to bolster the economy, so local boards can draw on the widest range of support.
This is a practical resource that will help every LEP accelerate its programme of work.
Partnerships will, of course, still need personalised advice and information. So to deliver that, and to navigate the Whitehall maze, we have established a network of relationship managers, who will act as the first port of call for any issues a LEP wants to explore.
Taken together, this new support package of start up funding; an online Toolbox; a Relationship Manager; will enable every partnership to translate their ideas and ambitions into a plan of action, to galvanise growth in their areas.
It will also help LEPs nurture new local businesses as they start up and grow.
Small firms are the bedrock of the UK economy. So we are working to help boost your bottom line:
- cutting the headline rate of corporation tax to 23% by 2014, and the small profits rate to 20% - returning over £1bn a year for investment;
- exempting start-ups outside the Greater South East from paying National Insurance Contributions on their first ten employees;
- extending the current small business rate relief holiday for a year, from October 2011;
- and doubling entrepreneur’s relief on capital gains tax to £10 million, so individuals are rewarded for their hard work and endeavour.
SMEs also need management and administration support. So our improved framework of business support harnesses the real-world expertise of experienced business men and women.
New facilities include online business information; a national contact centre; and a 40,000-strong network of experienced business mentors, to offer business coaching and practical advice.
Alongside these resources, we are implementing a streamlined package of 13 business support services, tailored to help businesses improve performance.
The new Solutions for Business portfolio is designed to help businesses overcome the key challenges they face, as they strive to grow. The services on offer include support on access to finance, including angel investment; coaching for high growth; and tapping into work based learning and exports.
Ladies and Gentlemen, to conclude, the UK economy faces many challenges. We need to encourage growth, but we also need to rebalance the economy beyond just the south east of England.
The old top-down model hasn’t worked. That’s why we are setting businesses free - here in your area and across the country - to respond to local economic priorities, and drive your own route to growth and renewal.
This Government is determined to make the next decade the most dynamic and entrepreneurial in Britain’s history. And as Local Enterprise Partnerships gather momentum, I have every confidence that together we can achieve that shared ambition.