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SELEP showcases successes and looks to the future at final legacy event

The last-ever South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) event showcased the successes of our 13-year tenure and looked to how public-private partnerships would be led in the future to support growth and prosperity across the South East.

‘The Future of Local Growth in the South East’ on 22 March at Alie Street, London, was a series of lively panel-based debates, facilitated by Jonathan Werren from Westminster based think tank, Localis.

The event was part of a series of legacy events organised by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership as it prepares to transfer its activities into the Local Authorities from 1st April 2024.

Sarah Dance, LEP Chair, said: “For over a decade, SELEP has been at the forefront of working to drive economic prosperity across our region and through our partnership, I believe we’ve made a real difference to the socio-economic fabric of the South East. From infrastructure enhancements, to investments in education and skills, from tourism to culture, from housing to rail, we’ve worked to stimulate good growth and enrich the lives of our communities.

Reflecting on her time involved at all levels in the work of the Local Enterprise Partnership Sarah said:

“Partnership doesn’t happen by magic. It takes time. It takes focus, it takes flexibility, leadership and collaboration. I’ve been truly honoured to witness the unwavering support from both public, private partnership. Together we’ve championed initiatives that propelled our region forward and I’d like to give thanks the commitment given by our partners, and staff from the bottom of my heart.”

“As we prepare to transition the functions of SELEP to local authority partners, we do so with confidence, knowing that the legacy of the LEP will endure.”

The South East LEP was established n 2011 as a body to stimulate investment and economic growth across the region. The LEP has managed an investment programme of over £900million, supported over 180 projects, delivered jobs, homes, training, skills improvements, new infrastructure and digital enhancements to name a few.

The Future of Local Growth event enabled over 120 attendees to hear from key stakeholders from across the region included political members from East Sussex, Medway, Kent and Essex County Councils.The event featured three panels with the first posing the question:

What have been the foundation for successful private sector engagement in the work of the LEP and how can the BUSINESS VOICE be effectively represented in future arrangements to support growth and investment in the South East?     

Speakers included: Sarah Dance, SELEP Chair; Liz Gibney, Kent and Medway Economic Partnership; Roger Gough, Kent County Council; Keith Glazier, East Sussex County Council; Chris McMahon, Lower Thames Crossing.

It was noted that SELEP’s local approach and  finding routes to be closest to communities and businesses, was said to be a clear model for success. Clarity of purpose, transparency and diversity of voice from the granular level to the really strategic, were also part of SELEP’s legacy to be continued going forward.

Panel two considered:

What does the future landscape look like for economic growth, how can we build on the success of the Local Enterprise Partnership model, how will priorities and STRATEGIC DIRECTION be developed?

Speakers included: Councillor Lee Scott, Essex County Council; Abbie Kemp, Canterbury Christchurch University; Lisa McCance, Shared Intelligence; Adam Bryan, Medway Council; Ana Christie, Sussex Chamber of Commerce; David Sheppard, Team East Sussex.

The panel looked at SELEP’s approach to partnership and strategy development and how factors for successful strategies included agility; equity and fairness with a structure that encourages engagement; funding to deliver the strategy; strong partnership and being responsive to people. Emphasis was also placed on a joint approach to skills for the region, the importance of being ‘bid-ready’ and having a partnership approach to attract Investment.

Panel three discussed:

How can we think differently about the DELIVERY of economic growth programmes that will revolve less around large-scale pots from national government and will have more emphasis on collaboration and co-investment?

Speakers included: Councillor Lauren Edwards, Medway Council; Corinne Day, Newhaven Enterprise Zone; Jo Havers, University of Brighton; Simon Cook, SELEP Deputy Chair.

A creative, evidence-based approach should underpin programmes going forward, said the panel, along with a shared view of a place to focus objectives and provide a consolidated offer for the place not just the project. Responsibility for championing place should lie with all partners not just local authorities, although Government should trust local authorities to deliver programmes while being held accountable. Grassroots organisations should be involved from the outset, the panel agreed, and two-way dialogue with communities was essential

SELEP Deputy Chair, Simon Cook, closed the session and expressed his gratitude to the event’s speakers and panel contributors whose “insights” provided “thought-provoking discussions” and “illuminated pathways for future collaboration”.

He also acknowledged the “, support and expertise that underpinned the partnership.

“I extend my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of our partners who have defined what SELEP has been and what the future of the South East region will be,” Mr Cook added: “Our subgroups over the years have had tremendous impact. Thank you to all those who have dedicated their time into those. Your dedication, your expertise, and unwavering commitment has been the cornerstone of all of our success.

“Let us carry forward the spirit of togetherness that has defined our collective efforts. We’ve laid the groundwork for a future where the South East continues to thrive as a hub of economic vitality and opportunity, committed to driving sustainable growth, fostering inclusive prosperity and building a brighter future for all who call the southeast their home.”

For those who were unable to attend you can watch the event recording here.

For more details of the SELEP legacy events visit