Paving way for £1bn mayor for the region

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The numbers haven’t been finalised yet – but it’s safe to say that by the time an elected mayor is in post in May, the Local Enterprise Partnership will have funding worth quite a bit more than a £1 billion.

It is well known that Sheffield City Region won £900 million over 30 years as part of a devolution deal which has paved the way for more powers and funds from government in return for a mayor.

Less well known is the Local Growth Fund, which is set to be worth about £70m-a-year.

Transport funding is also expected to run into hundreds of millions of pounds over five years, once negotiations with government are finalised.

Dave Smith is interim executive director of the LEP, a business and regeneration body that includes a team of 60 officers based at Broad Street West in Sheffield city centre.

He has the job of pulling all the money into a single pot and preparing the ground so that a mayor can hit the ground running.

Mr Smith was chief executive of Sunderland City Council and joined as interim executive director of the LEP in February.

He said: “My job is to help the region get into shape for a future which has a mayor and is even more focused on delivery.

“Up to now a lot of our resource as a city region has been around developing programmes and devolution deals.”

The Local Enterprise Partnership is a business and regeneration body comprised of private sector volunteer business people and the leaders of nine councils.

In October, it struck a second devolution deal with Government.

Mr Smith added: “I have really noticed that despite obvious challenges and differences of view, people have the spirit of working together which is better than most places I have experienced.

“As long as you have got that you can have disagreements but you are always moving fowards.

“In that context it’s a great place to work.

“I don’t think the region realises that the degree to which business and political leaders work together is a rarity and something to be supported and treasured.

“It’s making a difference and it’s one of the reasons we are leading on devolution.”

Doncaster Airport and the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District – stretching from the AMRC in Rotherham to the planned Olympic Legacy Park in Attercliffe, are two LEP priorities.

Mr Smith added: “Connectivity is critical for investment and export. Advanced manufacturing sets us apart from many other regions.”

Eventually he will return to his own business advice company Promodo, in Durham.