Coventry & Warwickshire LEP has helped distribute nearly £200 million of grants to help Coventry and Warwickshire businesses through Covid-19.
The government is currently carrying out a review of the UK’s Local Enterprise Partnership network and according to a report in the Municipal Journal, it is withholding the full year of core funding from local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in a move which looks like the organisations are facing major change. Amid uncertainty around the future of LEPs, the Government has decided to only provide the partnerships with an initial six months of funding in 2021-22 – worth £250,000 for each organisation. LEPs from across our region are now setting out how their work has helped the local businesses they were established to support.
This joint approach has helped local firms access Government COVID-19 grants, as well as support and funding from major local business support programmes, including Coventry and Warwickshire’s Business Support, Green Business, Innovation, Skills 4 Growth and Start, Grow & Scale, and innovation support programmes from local universities, which will help accelerate the economic recovery from the pandemic.
Sarah Windrum, Chair of CWLEP, said the CWLEP Growth Hub has helped businesses access support to tackle other challenges and opportunities, including the UK’s new trading terms with the EU, as well as with Covid-19.
She said: “The CWLEP Growth Hub has been instrumental in shaping Coventry and Warwickshire’s strategic response to Covid and making sure businesses in sectors which had been the most affected have been able to access the available funds and support.
“All this highlights the pivotal role of CWLEP in business support primarily through our supply chain and recruitment work with University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire and the NHS, the Peer Networks which are bringing business leaders together, and the re-positioning of the Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust to provide finance to help businesses wanting to expand or entrepreneurs starting a business.
“All of this is helping to lay the foundations for not only recovery from the pandemic but, crucially, our economy’s future growth and to help the government meet its Net Zero and green targets.”
Craig Humphrey, Managing Director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said his team has worked incredibly hard from the start of the pandemic to help businesses with so many issues associated with Covid-19.
“One of the key strengths of the CWLEP Growth Hub and the CWLEP has been our partnership working ever since we were formed and that has really come to the fore during the pandemic,” he said.
“It has been vital in helping to gather crucial real-time data through our SmartRegion reports to ensure the government’s discretionary grant schemes were directed to businesses in sectors that were really struggling at a time when they needed it the most.
“The area has received £55 million from the European Regional Development Fund to fund business support activities since 2016 and the Growth Hub has played an important role in delivering some of the activities and making sure local businesses have been able to access the range of support available, both pre-pandemic and during the pandemic, and will continue to do this to support economic recovery.
“There is a number of highly-valued support schemes that we and our partners are looking to build on beyond June 2023 when their funding is due to come to an end.
“The Growth Hub team has been available on the telephone or video calls to listen to the fears and concerns of business owners and that has been just as valuable as providing practical help with information and advice on the various Covid-19 grants and support which were available.
“The launch of Made Smarter to help West Midlands manufacturing and engineering firms to adopt cutting-edge digital technology is a perfect example of providing sector-specific support and highlights the importance of Growth Hubs and LEPs throughout the region collaborating which could be repeated for other sector-based interventions in the future.”
The CWLEP Growth Hub has helped 6,962 companies across the area since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 with 1,966 businesses being supported specifically with matters relating to Covid-19 issues.
There were 3,313 SME businesses – who have less than 250 employees – supported in a variety of sectors with the top five being wholesale and retail trade including the repair of motor vehicles, other service activities, manufacturing, professional, scientific and technical activities, and accommodation and food service activities.
The current Government review of LEPs is examining how future local business organisations can best support the Plan for Growth with a specific focus on the UK’s transition to a Net Zero economy, boosting international trade, stimulating innovation, and exploiting local strengths and comparative economic advantage. The results will feed into the Levelling-Up White Paper which is expected to be announced this autumn.