Blog: Nick Abell, interim chair of the CWLEP

Friday 24th of April 2020 07:28 AM

Nick Abell

The whole reason LEPs were founded by the then coalition government was to be a true partnership between private and public sector with the sole purpose of driving forward local economies.

It was a new model – with guidance only stretching to two sides of A4 – but one that has, certainly in the case of Coventry and Warwickshire, brought tangible dividends in terms of attracting investment, jobs and economic uplift.

The other benefit it has undoubtedly brought is increased communications and co-operation internally. I don’t think any forum had previously allowed the private and public sector to work together so closely and to ally their aims for the common good.

But, also, it has allowed for greater working and understanding between all the neighbouring authorities which make up the civic structure of Coventry and Warwickshire, whatever their political colour or location.

That practical co-operation has never been brought so sharply into focus as it has during this current crisis.

I chaired a virtual meeting of the public sector board members this week and it was apparent the lengths our local councils have gone to make sure assistance is reaching businesses as swiftly as possible.

I am glad to say that as a region we are performing well on that score, and we all have to remember that it is a massive undertaking. Local authorities have had to move from being collectors of money to distributors of funds, that requires a whole host of different processes and information, and our councils are performing very well.

Not only are they working extremely hard to make sure funds reach businesses as quickly as possible but they are all doing it with – at the moment – precious little support from central Government.

That may come once the dust settles, as Government at all levels must be stretched beyond belief, and Westminster is not only co-ordinating the fight against Covid-19, but also has to implement some massive new measures.

Local councils are like businesses in that they have to balance the books and provide services for us, their customers. But as well as having to divert huge levels of resources to ensuring the grant funding reaches companies as quickly as possible, they are also missing out on huge revenue streams such as car parking fees.

The level of co-ordination which exists in Coventry and Warwickshire is underlined by the fact that the CW LEP Growth Hub has been chosen as the West Midlands body charged with ensuring that Government has the most accurate and up-to-date economic data from across the patch.

The Growth Hub is working very closely with the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber and the FSB, as well as the West Midlands Combined Authority, ensuring that there is co-ordination in everything we do.

The data will be vital to help steer the Government as it lays and then execute plans to try to emerge from the crisis. It becomes evident with every passing day that re-start and recovery will be a slow and gradual process and there are bound to be business casualties.

The LEP has been gathering information through our business groups and we know that supporting the supply chain across our area will be vital.

In many ways established companies getting back on their feet till be needed to be treated as start-ups in terms of the assistance they will need from the Government and their own banks as, despite being well-established, their cash flow will be non-existent.

Our future economic wellbeing depends, to a large extent, on their survival.

 

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