Lobby group Orwell Ahead calls for greater engagement with New Anglia LEP

By Mark Ling

New Anglia LEP has recently announced that Claire Cullens (of Norfolk Community Foundation) and Peter Joyner (of PR & media group, Shorthose Russell) have joined the board.

Both Norwich-based candidates deserve high praise for their voluntary commitment to help shape our region’s economic outlook and to battle for infrastructure and inward investment.

However, it remains deeply concerning that the Ipswich & Felixstowe area (East Anglia’s biggest interdependent economic zone by GVA) still has considerably less influence at the table than our regional neighbours/competitors.

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Our Ports & Logistics sector (a top three sector in the region) is heavily reliant on our highways, rail and port infrastructure yet rarely has a representative/seat at the table since the LEP was formed (and none since David Gledhill left in 2012)

During that time more than £650m has been won for major improvements to the A11 and A47 (for the Cambridge to Norwich axis) and a Northern Distributor road for Norwich.

In the same period, Ipswich and Felixstowe secure ZERO for the A14 and A12 in our area, and only hot air for the Ipswich Northern Bypass.

We must, collectively, ask serious questions at how such disparity in focus and spending has occurred. Equally, we really cannot complain when our key business and sector leaders for this economic zone are

1) Not offering their services to the LEP;

2) Have not formed a business and academic group to champion our area;

3) Are either oblivious or unconcerned by such a lack of representation, focus and ambition for OUR economic area.

Orwell Ahead, what we are seeking

1 After our lobbying, Ipswich & Felixstowe economic area increased from just one from 15 LEP New Anglia Board members to four. We believe that our LEP Board representation should never fall below 30% (our zone’s percentage of GVA for Norfolk & Suffolk). But we can only achieve this if our business leaders and stakeholders play their part.

2 We are calling for a permanent New Anglia LEP board position for the Felixstowe Port Users Association; or the Ports of Felixstowe and Ipswich. It is essential that the transport and shipping sector is always represented when infrastructure lobbying and spending is at stake.

3 We are urgently calling for a business and academic-led member group dedicated to the successful growth of Greater Ipswich & Felixstowe. Chris Starkie of Shaping Norfolk’s Future was able to brilliantly deliver a clear list of objectives for the Norwich area. Jeremy Newsum and Jane Paterson-Todd have galvanised Cambridge Ahead, providing direction and a single powerful voice for Greater Cambridge. Why should Greater Ipswich have anything less? This should be an absolute priority for us and the New Anglia LEP. 

4 We are calling for LEP inspired “funding incubators” for Ipswich & Felixstowe area. To encourage, help administer, fully support, and increase funding applications and bids for this area. Since lottery funding began in 2007, Ipswich has won £90m in lottery funding. Equal sized/populated Norwich has won £190m. Greater Norwich has won £1,025 per head, Greater Ipswich just £341 per head. This is unacceptable. Ipswich needs help; to be presenting more bids and winning more funding.

5 None of the above can be achieved without our local business and academic groups/leaders/chambers/local politicians coming together with a single plan, objectives, and ambition for the Ipswich & Felixstowe economic area as a whole.

Please visit our website for more information: www.OrwellAhead.co.uk