The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) has submitted a £573 million bid to Government for investment in 170 projects across the patch, which would collectively bring more than 135,000 new jobs to the area, boost the local economy and drive not just short-term, but long-term growth in a number of industries.
In a letter to the Secretary of State, SELEP Chair Christian Brodie emphasised the fact that the South East’s economy is a driving force behind growth for the entire country, noting that, quite simply, recovery in the South East will drive the national economy out of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Government wrote to LEPs recently asking for ideas on how the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) could help to accelerate the delivery of capital projects in order to stimulate the economy over the next 18 months following the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
SELEP and its federated business boards – namely Kent and Medway Economic Partnership, Opportunity South Essex, Success Essex and Team East Sussex – worked together to prepare a list of projects that will make a difference across East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock. These range from high street opportunities, investments to improve digital capability for businesses, the green energy and growth agenda, transport improvements including cycling, and public realm improvements – all with a shared criterion to meet COVID-19-safe regulations and support the new normal for the business landscape.
There are also several large-scale infrastructure and housing projects on the list submitted to Government which will be game changers for local areas in the longer term, as well as create much needed and immediate employment during construction phases. These projects will act as catalysts for investment in the medium term to drive longer-term, sustainable growth.
These projects have all been submitted because they will help to offset some of the damage the pandemic has caused to the local economy. The heavily hit hospitality, food production and construction sectors make up a higher proportion of the South East’s economy than the UK average; these industries need to be bolstered as much as possible in the coming months, alongside our Higher Education facilities and our creative and tourism industries, which have also taken the brunt of the lockdown’s impact.
The South East economy is dominated by SMEs – the hardest hit – but it is that entrepreneurial spirit that will help to drive economic recovery. Despite the devastating impact of the crisis on many businesses, 27% of respondents to the SELEP Business Recovery Survey (available here) stated that they felt the crisis had presented opportunities for their businesses, while nearly half said they are looking to adapt their business models in light of the ‘new normal’.
South East LEP Chair Christian Brodie said:
“Given the remarkable resilience of the South East’s business people and workforce, given our infrastructure assets which are so critical to connecting the UK to the rest of the world and given the indomitable spirit which characterises us, we believe that a pound invested here is a pound invested for the benefit of all.”