A departing chair of a leading West Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership has called on Government – local and national – to ensure that the organisation can continue to thrive.
Nick Abell chaired the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) for the last time before handing over to his successor Sarah Windrum after taking the helm at the start of the Covid crisis.
Abell, who has been a board member for eight years, said the pandemic and economic downturn had emphasised the strength of the CWLEP, which has been adjudged by Government to be one of the best performing in England.
“There is no question that the strength of the relationships between the private, public and education sectors, which have been forged since the LEP was established, have greatly helped Coventry and Warwickshire during stronger economic times but also in the last 12 months,” said Abell.
“The fact that we had established very strong working relationships and had made such advances in economic terms, attracting record investment and delivering against all our targets, meant we were able to respond robustly to the pandemic.
“Our local authorities ensured that money reached businesses as quickly as possible, the CWLEP Growth Hub, which has taken a leading regional role during the pandemic, worked alongside the Chamber and FSB to give any support which was needed, while the LEP used the expertise of its business groups to draw up a reset strategy which will help us along the road to recovery.
“That level of co-operation would not have been possible in the days before the LEP, and that must be taken on board and remembered at levels of Government. Giving the private sector a seat at the decision-making table, ensuring that all local authorities – of whatever political persuasion – worked together for established and common economic priorities has yielded very positive results for Coventry and Warwickshire.
“These are very uncertain times, but the LEP is an undoubted success. Coventry and Warwickshire is now considered one entity and that has brought real purpose. I have worked in this area for 35 years and never has it operated so well in terms of partnership and delivery and it is vital that is not lost.”
Abell, who will remain an active member of the board and will revert to his pre-pandemic position as vice chair, cited the area’s performance in attracting and delivering through the Government’s Local Growth Fund as evidence of the LEP’s effectiveness.
He said: “We attracted £131m from the Local Growth Fund in three different funding rounds and was able to ensure that the money went to projects which were aligned with our Strategic Economic Plan and could deliver results which helped us as an area.
“The results of that are clear to see right across the county from south to north and in the city of Coventry in key developments which will bring tangible economic results. They include the major work at Coventry Station, the Transforming Nuneaton initiative and work to boost tourism in the south of the county.
“Sarah has been on the LEP board since 2016 and I know she will continue to drive the organisation onwards. I followed Jonathan Browning, who did a superb job as chair, and I have no doubt that she will continue to lead the LEP forward for the good of the region.”