There’s an old saying that prediction is very difficult – especially if it’s about the future.
It’s a feeling we know only too well at the LEP, as we await the results of the Government’s review into what role we might play in the years ahead.
I believe passionately in the work that the LEP does – and in its unique ability to bring together partners from the private and public sector and academia to build a thriving economy which serves all our communities. It’s why I applied for the role of chief executive here at the Marches LEP even amid the uncertainty of the current situation.
I very much hope that the review is now completed in a timely fashion. There is, after all, much to do and much we can be certain about.
The climate crisis – and need to develop a low carbon, net zero, sustainable economy which protects our environment for the generations to come – is perhaps the greatest challenge facing all of us. The Marches LEP has already played a leading role in driving this agenda across the region and is ready to continue this work.
We have developed a comprehensive ten-year energy strategy which sets out a clear roadmap for transforming our economy to green, clean and sustainable technologies – and which is already producing impressive results.
Shropshire is now the top-ranked local authority in the UK for generating power through Anaerobic Digestion (AD), with Herefordshire only just behind. The Marches also performs well for solar power in the new figures, with Shropshire now boasting almost 7,000 separate solar PV installations, generating 208GWh – the fifth best in the UK. Herefordshire has over 5,200 sites generating 57GWh whilst Telford & Wrekin has 2,592 sites producing 39GWh (94th) – including its own council-run solar farm which generates around 4GWh / annum.
We are also working to promote a range of schemes to help businesses reduce their carbon footprint whilst at the same time working more efficiently – the Business Energy Efficiency Programme and Marches Renewable Energy Grant Scheme for example.
Similarly, we have been working tirelessly to develop the region’s skills base so that it meets the needs of business, teaming up with our further and higher education partners to develop initiatives such as the Marches Careers Hub and investing in dedicated skills centres including NMITE in Hereford, the Marches Centre of Excellence in Health and Social Care and the new Engineering and Automotive Centre at Shrewsbury Colleges Group.
Work will also continue to support our key sectors – such as the Ni.PARK development in Newport centred on agri-tech innovation, the ever-more important Cyber section and the expertise we are helping to develop at the Midlands Centre for Cyber Security and, of course, our wonderful food and drink producers, exporters and manufacturers across the region.
And whatever the next year or so brings, we know that helping the region to recover from the dreadful Covid pandemic will be a major part of it.
The Marches LEP was at the forefront of this region’s response to the lockdowns of the last 18 months as our chair Mandy Thorn has already referenced in her welcome to this report. As you will see elsewhere in this report, we were able to direct help where it was most needed and through our business support service the Marches Growth Hub were the go-to source of accurate information, help and advice when businesses needed it the most.
The future may be uncertain, but there is one thing I can be very sure about: We are ready to continue our role serving this wonderful region for as long as necessary.