Sheffield LEP boss hits back at ‘inaction’ claim

Sir Nigel Knowles, chair of the local enterprise partnership. Picture: Andrew Roe
Sir Nigel Knowles, chair of the local enterprise partnership. Picture: Andrew Roe
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The chair of a top regional business body has hit back at allegations of a ‘lack of activity’ insisting he has had meetings with a ‘host of investors’.

Sir Nigel Knowles, chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: ‘I have led MIPIM delegations, spoken at Downing Street with a host of international investors and had meetings in London with ministers, investors and businesses who know little about our region.

Sheffield MP Clive Betts.

Sheffield MP Clive Betts.

‘I also personally ensured we were able to bring the successful Horasis China conference to the region to showcase our offer on the international stage.

‘I have personally introduced investors into the region, the latest of which resulted in a successful deal for the development of 360 Degrees Media in Doncaster’.

Sir Nigel was responding to a letter from Sheffield MP Clive Betts expressing concern over a perceived lack of activity over the last 12 months and claiming ‘we have had nothing from you for an awful long time.’

He added: ‘I am sorry to be so blunt but that is what people are saying to me.’

In a letter to Mr Betts, Sir Nigel thanked him for his candour,

He added: ‘It is no secret that I am London based. Whilst this creates a different dynamic to some other LEPs it was a conscious and bold decision to implement this model of a non-executive strategic leader supported by a vice chair. It rightly reflected the challenge that we do not as a region have a strong business voice nationally or internationally’.

He said LEP board members had a visible presence locally and a recent LEP review had recommended the model for other LEPs.

Sir Nigel then spoke of his frustration at the ‘collective failure’ of politicians to agree the £900m devolution deal.

In September, Barnsley and Doncaster backed out of a deal they signed to pursue a ‘One Yorkshire’ ambition.

He added: ‘When the region signed the 2015 devolution deal it marked for many of us in the private sector a watershed moment.

‘For the first time in a generation this region was in the political and economic vanguard, we forged a reputation with national government as a place that could be trusted to deliver, that was able to put aside differences and parochialism, that was able to see the bigger picture.

‘So it is a source of huge frustration to the private sector that the deal has not yet been implemented. That is a collective failure of local leaders and city region MPs who can and should be ensuring the benefits are realised now, whilst respecting some have wider ambitions for the future. This is particularly frustrating because when I meet with national business leaders our economic growth story, our effective public-private partnership and our track record of delivery is ever more compelling. I will do everything I can to support the mayor in unlocking the deal.’