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South East Local Enterprise Partnership sets out plan to drive South East economy into recovery as the UK’s Global Gateway

The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) has outlined its plan to drive the South East into new economic growth as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and establishes new ways of working internationally following the EU Transition.

This will be characterised by four main priorities that have been identified as the unique driving forces behind the South East economy. These are:

  • Business Resilience and Growth;
  • UK’s Global Gateway;
  • Communities for the Future; and
  • Coastal Catalyst.

SELEP Chair Christian Brodie said:

“The SELEP area is the UK’s global gateway with the business resilience and growth potential to kickstart economic recovery for all communities across the South East and the UK as a whole. Over the past decade, SELEP has created a coalition for growth with many businesses and partners, developing strong platforms to drive innovation and productivity across the whole of the South East.”

Economic Impact

The South East economy has lost up to £10 billion GVA during 2020 due to the pandemic. As of January 2021, 15.4% of the LEP area’s workforce is on the job retention scheme, and job vacancies have dropped by 26%, with a further 47,000 people potentially unemployed by the end of the year.

Some of SELEP’s more deprived coastal communities have been hit hard due to their reliance on the most impacted sectors. In the South East, sectors that have seen the greatest impact in terms of estimated job losses include hospitality, with a potential drop of 22,100 jobs; retail, with a potential decrease of 9,200 jobs; and arts and leisure, with a potential drop of 6,600 jobs.

Support for Business

The South East LEP has continued to support the business community throughout the past year. Our Growth Hub supported more than 6,700 businesses last year, and was six times busier in January this year compared to January 2020.

The LEP is also injecting an additional £85 million into the local economy through its share of the Government’s £900 million Getting Building Fund, which backs shovel-ready projects that will stimulate job creation and growth in areas that have been most affected by COVID-19. SELEP is due to launch a £4.4 million Business Support and Skills Fund in the coming weeks to strengthen this investment where it is needed most.

Working Together for a Faster, Smarter and More Sustainable Economic Recovery

The new Economic Recovery and Renewal Strategy sets out how SELEP will work with partners, across the private and public sector, to take clear and decisive action to support a path to recovery and renewal and to make clear the opportunities and needs of the SELEP area.

The four driving growth pillars are underpinned by seven key objectives, which are to:

  1. support business innovation;
  2. drive trade and growth;
  3. deliver a skilled workforce;
  4. improve digital and physical connectivity;
  5. put clean growth at the heart of what we do;
  6. support equality; and
  7. promote greater resilience in our places.

Christian Brodie said:

“By understanding the impact on our economy, we can capitalise on the opportunities that will best support our sectors and drive recovery and growth.

“SELEP understands that as the economy starts to build back, it needs to be done in a fair, sustainable and more resilient way, creating places that enable all people and businesses to prosper.”

The Strategy aligns well with Government’s ‘Build Back Better: Our Plan for Growth’ published in March 2021. Which sets out three priorities of ‘infrastructure, innovation and skills’ and outlines Government’s commitments to:

  • Level up the whole of the UK;
  • Support the transition to net zero; and
  • Support our Vision for Global Britain.

The strategy has been informed by ongoing engagement with partners across the LEP, a robust evidence base and ongoing intelligence gathering to understand the recent economic impacts on our economy, and by the extensive work that continues to take place in our four Federated Areas to support localised recovery planning. Delivery and action plans will be published in the coming months to ensure the strategy is informing future investment and activities.

The actions flowing from the strategy will be particularly guided by four overarching principals of good growth:

  • the need to deliver clean growth;
  • close the digital divide;
  • develop the skills of our workforce and residents; and
  • address inequalities.

SELEP Deputy Chair Sarah Dance said:

“The work of the LEP is about more than funding and infrastructure. Through our established partnership, we have a unique understanding of our economy and provide strong leadership. By working together, with a clear plan to tackle our challenges and seize opportunities, we will lead the way in ensuring that the South East is and remains a destination of choice to live, work and invest.”

You can read the full document and view the executive summary here.