- Extend the successful community-based enterprise development work done in Bradford across the city-region
- Create a network of enterprise colleges under the ‘free schools’ model – concentrating this in the poorest communities
- Establish a business microfinance system – lots of businesses need a little as £500 to get going and the LEP could help support this sort of lending
- Sponsor and support business networking, local business hubs and enterprise support – working at the local level
Saturday, 10 September 2011
Leeds City Region needs enterprise, excitement and initiative - not sure that's what its getting
Yesterday – following their extravagant summit - I wrote many a fine word about the problems with Leeds City Region LEP. The unrepresentative, public sector majority board, the Leeds-centric nature of the emerging strategy and the manner in which the ‘plan’ merely revisits the failed plans and strategies of the past thirty years. We appear to have learned little in that time and to have grown an exoskeleton of impenetrable regeneration babble to excuse that lack of learning.
But rather than a diatribe about this, I want to comment on how these bodies can be made to work – but only if we ignore the dominant ‘shiny regeneration’ approach to economic development.
If Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are to work, it won’t be through fine words and setting targets over which the Partnership has absolutely no control. And it certainly won’t be by staging a few cosy fireside chats with self-selected business audiences or by buttering up some big property developers or retailers in the hope that they’ll wave their magic business wand and create that “dynamic, low carbon economy” everyone seems to want.
The clue – if we need one – lies in the name. In those two words – “local” and “enterprise”. This isn’t about the nonsensical and mythical “competitive advantage” game (that Porter has so much to answer for) or the Jane Jacobs for property developers that the Centre for Cities peddles. Success comes because people – local people succeed. Success comes from having an enterprising, creative and innovative population.
This isn’t about fast trains, enterprise zones or “City Region Strategies”, it’s about stomping around local communities talking to local folk, chatting with the corner shopkeeper, listening to the aspirations of these neighbourhoods. That’s where the growth will come from – not in revisiting the broken windows fallacy but in the enterprise and initiative of ordinary people.
If the LEPs simply become ways to divvy up grants and to farm the development taxes everyone seems so keen on (which are just another drag on economic growth), then they will fail. So a few bits of the ‘city region’ will benefit from this cash injection while the fundamental problem – our lack of enterprise compared to successful places – is simply not addressed.
Here are a few things I think that a LEP should do:
The essence of this is that it is focused on people rather than on grand projects, big business or the ever elusive inward investment. If we have successful, exciting people, we will get successful and exciting businesses. And this will attract more excitement, more success and more business. And that growth in “gross value added” we all seek.
But most importantly, it will be fun.