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Friday, 28 November 2014

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Masterplan ‘to create 15,000 jobs’

AN ECONOMIC masterplan that aims to create 15,000 jobs in Cumbria over 10 years has been submitted to Ministers.

Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has been working on its Strategic Economic Plan for the last 12 months.

The document sets out how the LEP would use its share of a £2bn national pot to create jobs and business opportunities in Cumbria.

It sets out a “four-pronged attack” centred on advanced manufacturing, the nuclear sector, the visitor and rural economy, and the M6 corridor.

The plan, covering the period 2014-24, aims to create 15,000 jobs over and above those that would be created anyway.

It would, the document claims, boost the county’s economy by £600m a year and lead to the construction of 30,000 homes.

And it would increase the predicted annual rate of growth in GVA – the measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area – from 1.6 to 2.2 per cent.

LEPs were set up by the Coalition Government as private/public-sector partnerships to lead economic regeneration in the English regions. They replaced the old regional development agencies.

Cumbria LEP is chaired by George Beveridge, deputy managing director at Sellafield.

Initially, LEPs were hampered by lack of funding but that is about to change.

Mr Beveridge described how the turning point came when Michael Heseltine published his No Stone Unturned report, which set out ideas on how to boost economic growth.

The Government was so impressed that ministers commissioned all LEPs to come up with their own “growth deal” – how they would use funding to create jobs and boost their economies.

Mr Beveridge said: “About 12 months ago we started working on the Strategic Economic Plan, which will be our way of negotiating a local growth deal for Cumbria.

“The Government has decided to give LEPs responsibility for deciding how funding should be invested and, if you put all of the funding together, that’s between £80m and £90m to be invested in Cumbria over the next six years.”

But the plans aren’t to be seen as a “Christmas list”, says Mr Beveridge. “It’s very much a deal,” he said. “It’s not grants aimed at deprivation. It’s who has the most attractive growth opportunities and how the Government can support that.

“In Cumbria, we have an exceptional opportunity on an Olympic scale.”

The document sets out specific ways in which the LEP can use funding to upgrade transport infrastructure, improve business support to small and medium-sized enterprises, and grow the supply chain.

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