Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire’s new business chief has urged Government minsters to back a multi-million pound bid that would unlock more jobs and growth across the area.
The city and the county are on the cusp of even greater things as one of the most important economies outside London, says David Frost, the former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.
Mr Frost has just been announced as the successor to Ron Dougan, who has chaired Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) since 2012.
Speaking after the submission of a Single Local Growth Fund bid to Government and publication of the partnership’s new strategic plan, David Frost said the organisation was on track to deliver on its commitments to deliver thousands of new jobs for local people.
The former head of the national LEPs Network added that endorsement of the bid and strategic plan by Minister for Cities Greg Clark MP would also boost business confidence across the region.
The LEP has submitted a bid for £780million over a six-year period to 2020. It is seeking £120million in 2015/16 to start work on strategic projects which would secure leverage of £3.2billion over the delivery period.
David said: “The Single Local Growth Fund bid sets out our ambitious plans to grow our economy by 50 per cent over the next decade and create 50,000 jobs. We know this is achievable based on the hard collaborative work which has already taken place and the unique City Deal with government we secured last month.
“Our strategic plan identifies key strengths such as advanced manufacturing and medical technologies and also focuses on ensuring we have skilled work-ready candidates to meet the needs of business. We will continue to work innovatively in this area as one of just three national skills pilot areas selected by the Government and expect imminent project announcements as part of this.
“As the new Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Enterprise Partnership chairman I am confident we are already in a strong position, thanks in no small part to the leadership of Ron Dougan and a strong, focused board.
“Securing the city deal and national funding for major infrastructure projects are real achievements for the area on his watch, as are the drive to increase skills development and seeing the number of JSA claimants fall sharply in the region over the last year.
“We were recently named in a Financial Times publication as one of the top three LEP areas in the country to attract inward investment which demonstrates the need to set our sights high and achieve even more.”
The strategic plan details infrastructure development at key strategic sites at Meaford, the Stoke-on-Trent city centre spine, Keele University Science and Business Park and Etruria Valley. This is in addition to energy generation for business as set out in the Powerhouse Central city deal bid.
This week, the Minister for Cities Greg Clark MP, said: “The Government welcomes the strategic economic plan that the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP has published and looks forward to continued engagement with local civic and business leaders over the next few months on the negotiation of their Growth Deal.
“The Growth Deal provides a fantastic opportunity for the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP to seek freedoms, flexibilities and influence over resources from government, and a share of the Local Growth Fund to put towards their the growth priorities set out in this strategic economic plan. This provides the opportunity to unleash the ambition and creativity of local leaders by devolving resource and responsibility in return for compelling local economic leadership in pursuit of growth.”
Civic leaders today welcomed David Frost’s appointment as LEP chairman.
Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins said: “David’s appointment brings a wealth of expertise to the LEP and will enable it to strengthen links with Government and business. This is vital for our ongoing success after our establishing Staffordshire as a leading place to do business nationally. The ability to influence at the top level is a key part of the LEP strategic plan – demonstrating to leaders that what we have achieved and will look to achieve are worthy of the backing that we know will lever more investment and create jobs. While David has a tough act to follow, I know he shares the same passion as Ron Dougan, and we should thank Ron for his hard work and passion in promoting Staffordshire to the world.”
Councillor Mohammed Pervez, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “I am delighted by the work that has been done through the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and look forward to working with David to bring even more landmark schemes, projects and multi-million investment to our fantastic city.
“As we welcome in a new chairman it is important to pay tribute to the outgoing Ron Dougan, who did a tremendous job during his time in the role, and I would like to thank him for his efforts.
“It is vital that the LEP continues to explore all funding options available to us that will help further stimulate growth and enhance our reputation as an expanding core city.
“In Stoke-on-Trent we realise the value of inward investment and attracting private sector interest. We have already signed the City Deal, worth £113 million, which will see the creation of the UK’s first large scale deep geothermal District Heating network, and support businesses creating 3,900 apprenticeships and 1,200 traineeships.
“This city and this area are truly open for business.”
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Enterprise Partnership board members met with Greg Clark MP as part of his tour of LEPs in the Midlands in February. He said the partnership had a clear vision and strategy with the right focus on infrastructure and skills and added that it should continue to build constructive relationships with neighbouring LEPs and MPs.