New Anglia boss hails region’s ‘can do’ spirit

New Anglia chairman Andy Wood has hailed the 'can-do' culture of the region's businesses, insisting that the Local Enterprise Partnership was there to help remove the obstacles from the path to creating more jobs.

Speaking at this week's New Anglia conference, which highlighted the theme of innovation in the region, Dr Wood said part of the reason for the LEP's successes since its formation following the abolition of the East of England Development Agency, was its ability to bring businesses together to solve problems.

He said this was seen across a host of initiatives from supporting the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft Enterprise Zone, to supporting tourism and the green economy.

'I think we are trying to pull together all the constituent parts that make Norfolk and Suffolk a success,' he said. 'A successful area actually needs the private and public sector actually working in unison, and that's got to be the aim here.

'There's a team working on tourism, there's a team working on the cultural economy and a group working on agriculture, and a group working on life sciences.

'If you roll the clock back 50 years and look at what's going to be written about this time, it might well be that communities came together to help themselves. I think that's what we are saying. There are limited funds, so we have to focus our resources on where we are going to get the best return.'

He said he believed the two counties had largely set aside any scepticism they may have initially had about working as New Anglia and had come together to try to make a success of the LEP.

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'It's not only the Norfolk and Suffolk dimension, there's a rural versus urban dimension, and a Conservative versus Labour dimensions,' he said. 'But I have to say, by and large, people have put that to one side. What we have is a very adult board discussion and that's the way it should be

'I think it would be disingenuous for government's, LEPs, or local authorities to claim that they create jobs. Businesses create jobs, but what government, and LEPs and local authorities have got to do is listen to business. We have got to clear the way for them to create jobs.'

But with councils across Norfolk and Suffolk each maintaining their own economic development teams, he said there could be a case to look at more co-ordinated ways of working – though he stopped short of calling for a single team run by New Anglia, which many believe could be more effective and cost efficient.