I am pleased to introduce this year’s Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership (Bucks LEP) Annual Report, which captures the diversity and range of activity undertaken by the LEP over the past twelve challenging months and demonstrates the positive economic impact we are all making across Buckinghamshire.
The changes which we have all experienced over the past year have had a profound impact on the economy of Buckinghamshire. The economic impact of Covid-19 will be felt for some time, but the crisis has highlighted the resilience, spirit, adaptability and also opportunities of many of our local firms.
Bucks LEP remains at the forefront of work to ensure local businesses have access to support and advice they need. A significant volume of LEP resource and time has been redirected towards supporting the local and national COVID-19 response. Indeed, Bucks LEP was the first in the country to make available £2 million of funding to support businesses in Buckinghamshire affected by Covid-19.
However, our focus on plans to deliver growth across Buckinghamshire has not changed. We continue to work with partners to work towards the targets in our economic strategy and to continue to deliver the interventions in our Local Industrial Strategy.
There is a real momentum within Buckinghamshire, and we are driven to ensure the local business community feels the benefit of this progress. During 2020, Government recognised our delivery as being ‘excellent’ for projects and programmes which contribute to the execution of our overall vision for Buckinghamshire. Our Buckinghamshire Careers Hub was recognised as the highest achieving in the country by the Careers and Enterprise Company.
But we are not a LEP just delivering what is expected, we are trying to push the county’s business community to new heights and, by successfully applying to deliver additional projects, we are also seeing Buckinghamshire lead the way nationally and even internationally.
Covid has accelerated the urgency of tackling longer-term priorities we had already identified, such as bridging skills gaps and securing more digital inclusion. Initiatives such as the Aviation to Film Skills scheme, supporting previously employed aviation employees at Heathrow airport into the screen industries, and Pinewood Studios support for the Governments Kickstart Scheme are just two examples of our drive to address the skills gaps in our key sectors. “Pinewood Studios is putting our young people centre stage, helping them break into the UK’s world-renowned TV and film industry through the Kickstart Scheme”, said Mims Davies MP, Minister for Employment.
While the pandemic has inevitably led to business ambitions being dampened and public projects delayed or reduced, we continue to seek strategic value in delivering assets and services that support long-term growth and recovery.
It is precisely because of these reasons that we launched the Buckinghamshire Economic Recovery Plan. Building on existing support available at national and local levels, the Plan sets out the actions and interventions that we and our partners are bringing forward to help our economy navigate the challenges facing us now and in the future.
The work of the Bucks LEP Growth Hub, Buckinghamshire Business First, continues to help businesses of all sizes right across the area and during the past twelve months have never been more in demand. The pandemic crisis prompted a huge rise in enquiries for business support, especially our advice services and financial help such as grants and loans. Likewise, our Bucks Skills Hub is ensuring our workforce has the right skills and competencies to allow both individuals and organisations to flourish post pandemic. To this end the Bucks Skills Hub launched a new website, which provides a one-stop-shop for all career and skill needs, including support for career development and pathways and crucially during this period, redundancy support, along with latest opportunities in Bucks with 1,000s of live jobs available.
Bucks LEP stands at the heart of the business relationship between Whitehall and our local partners, a network that includes our region’s business associations, higher and further education, and other local area partners. Together, we have combined to form a strong and united approach which reflects our county’s priorities for investment, infrastructure and business support. Bucks LEP is a strong and robust partnership. We have reviewed and improved our governance structures, and this year have welcomed new Board members to support the continued growth of our economy and help our businesses to flourish locally and internationally.
Bucks LEP and its partners have raised Buckinghamshire’s reputation as a great place to do business on a national and global scale, we look forward to continuing to do so in the coming years. Our strengths are diverse, ranging from the space and advanced engineering sectors to the creative industries, all helping to attract inward investment and make Buckinghamshire a better place to live and work.
As I reflect on our achievements, I also look towards the next 12 months with optimism and confidence. There is no doubt that we are operating in uncertain times, but one thing is for sure, we have solid foundations to build upon and through ongoing partnership working and clear targets, I believe we will continue to achieve great things.
I would like to thank the Bucks LEP Board, our executive team, and our numerous partners and stakeholders involved in responding to the Covid-19 crisis, and in making huge strides in driving forward economic growth over the last year, to improve the opportunities and enhance the life choices for the people of Buckinghamshire.