PLMR Advent has worked with Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) for the last 12 years until tomorrow when it closes due to the Government’s announcement in the Levelling-Up White Paper that LEPs in England are to integrate into local democratic institutions.
In this blog, Account Director Michelle Wilson reflects on CWLEP’s successes as the main driver of the area’s economy after LEPs started life on the back of a two-page memo from minister Eric Pickles.
They say that all good things come to an end – and Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) will cease to exist tomorrow.
CWLEP, a partnership of the private and public sectors, started life on the back of a two-page memo from minister Eric Pickles and, for the last 12 years, has been the main driver of our local economy.
It brought together local authorities, businesses and education representatives across both Coventry and Warwickshire, with real power to direct investment funds to projects which mattered to the area. There had been partnerships before but never with access to major funds and that – with a sweep of the Pickles pen – gave it unprecedented clout.
Initially, Government thought that Coventry and Warwickshire was too small an economic area to warrant a LEP, but then Chamber CEO Louise Bennett and Stratford-upon-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi persuaded them otherwise.
Of course, there are many physical manifestations right across the area, of how CWLEP has helped make key projects happen by allocating funds.
But the strength of CWLEP has been about far more than simply money. It is fair to say that before the organisation was established, Coventry and Warwickshire were, in many circles, viewed as two entities.
Despite their symbiotic relationship, they were kept apart by administrative boundaries and political colour but, in reality, the creation of CWLEP all but swept those divisions aside.
A small but telling detail maybe, but in any written communication our team now write about Coventry and Warwickshire as a single entity. It used to be C&W are, now it is C&W is.
The same can be said of the public and private sectors. Before the birth of CWLEP, while they may be not adversaries, there was a lack of appreciation of processes and pressures on both sides. While, rarely will they ever sing from the same hymn sheet, an enhanced mutual understanding made aiming for common goals so much easier and effective.
CWLEP spawned a series of business groups, mostly defined by sectors, that increased understanding and co-operation and brought far more cohesion between various parties. Again, the concentration of financial power in CWLEP’s control, bought meaning and focus to that work.
Government and the economy are often cyclical, and change is inevitable. People have arguments against and in support of the LEP structure – and LEPs do vary across the country – but in the next few months and years as the new more regional structure takes time to bed in, it is essential that the commonality that CWLEP established and then fostered, continues to thrive.
Without the binding local influence of CWLEP, that will take effort, but the last 12 years have proved just how valuable it can be.