2020 is a landmark year for Local Enterprise Partnerships as we celebrate our 10th birthday. So in looking forward, let’s cast our mind back and reflect on how we got here with some memorable quotes and twists and turns along the way.

It’s 2010 and Cameron and Clegg are in the honeymoon phase of their Coalition Government, the word Brexit has not been invented and a man called Boris has not yet been caught on camera dangling in mid-air while riding a zip wire as part of the London 2012 Olympic celebrations.

In June, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivers his first Budget to the House of Commons announcing austerity rules in response to the national debt. He also introduces a new acronym to the English lexicon: LEPs or Local Enterprise Partnerships to be brought in to replace ‘bureaucratic’ Regional Development Agencies.

 A new approach was needed, Osborne said, “that empowers local leadership, generates local economic growth, and promotes job creation in all parts of the country.”

In October that year, 24 areas hear they are successful in their bids to form LEPs and Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership is born. Our first seminal moment comes in 2012 with the publication of No Stone Unturned by former Conservative Deputy PM Michael Heseltine.

The report set out Heseltine’s vision to unleash the potential of local economies by handing the balance of power to LEPs who would go on to broker relationships between central and local government, and between government and the private sector:

“Government must now reverse the trend of the past century and unleash the dynamic potential of our local economies…. devolving funding from central government to Local Enterprise Partnerships so that government investment in economic development is tailored directly to the individual challenges and opportunities of our communities, and can be augmented by private sector investment.”

No Stone Left Unturned, 2012

Two years later, in 2014, Hertfordshire LEP publishes its own blueprint for economic growth, Perfectly Placed for Business. This sets out a “route map” for Hertfordshire to chart both what the LEP and its partners are seeking to achieve, and what is needed to make this happen.

It’s all hands to the pump now as we put in place the policies, processes and people to deliver on our strategic economic commitment and business and local authority leaders take up their seats in the boardroom to scrutinise our funding priorities. In the space of just three years, we go on to secure three significant Growth Deals with Government, totalling millions of pounds, and work with our partners to target EU funding by investing in innovation, businesses, and skills development to create high value jobs. Up and down the county, there are signs that we are delivering on our promises with investment in our roads, railway stations and town centre regeneration. Plaques, press statements and photo line-ups of leaders in hard hats signal our ability to secure Government funding for the betterment of our communities. 

2018 proves another watershed year as the Government hands us more responsibilities in their review of LEPs, Strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships. This consolidates our role as drivers of economic growth and collectively tasks LEPs with developing Local industrial Strategies. These would build on the priorities set out in our respective Strategic Economic Plans, with a focus on how we can boost productivity and drive inclusive growth.

Over the past two years, we have built up a robust evidence base for further investment through research and continued engagement with our key partners. From the outset, Hertfordshire LEP stated its strategy would be an integral part of the wider growth agenda for the county and would position the LEP as a key driver. Crucially, it has proven that the core strategic priorities set out in the early years are still the rights ones for the county.

As we enter 2020, we will continue to test our priorities and refine our Local Industrial Strategy to take into account both Hertfordshire’s own unique set of challenges and the wider trends that impact on our local economy and future growth.

With our Chair Mark Bretton now Chair of the LEP Network, Hertfordshire’s position in Westminster is strengthened, enabling us to make a greater case for investment and ensure that no stone is left unturned.

And as Hertfordshire LEP comes of age, the golden thread of our Strategic Economic Plan will continue to run through a shared narrative created in partnership with local business and civic leaders for strong sustainable growth.

Happy Birthday Hertfordshire LEP!

Blog by Lucy Gravatt
December 2019