Deal agreed on Norfolk/Suffolk jobs partnership

A deal to create a new economic partnership to boost jobs in Norfolk and Suffolk is set to be formally concluded today with ministers expected to receive the fully worked up bid next week.

The government last week approved 24 new local enterprise partnerships - business-led bodies tasked with leading the way to creating growth and new jobs.

But rival plans for Norfolk and East Anglia were rejected after Cambridgeshire was given the green light to be part of a venture linking the county with Peterborough, West Norfolk, and parts of Suffolk, while Norwich City Council had expressed concerns about the lack of clout of the Norfolk bid.

On Monday the team behind the Norfolk bid wrote to their counterparts in Suffolk inviting them to take forward a new joint proposal.

That will now see a formal 'letter of intent' between the two sides signed today and a fully worked up bid likely to be submitted to ministers in the next week. Both sides believe that with a joint population of 1.5m, a Norfolk and Suffolk LEP would have the critical mass to succeed – and that the two economies have a number of strengths in common, including world-class research in energy, climate and food science.

Both counties also face common challenges such as poor transport infrastructure, inadequate broadband, below-average skills levels and significant pockets of urban and rural deprivation.

The proposed Lep for Norfolk and Suffolk will seek funds to support the delivery of strategic priorities and unlock the area's economic potential.Peter Barry, chairman of the Norfolk Lep proposal board and managing director of Pasta Foods, said: 'We are in the process of working with Suffolk to develop a Lep that will meet the business growth aspirations of both counties through exploiting our joint strengths and addressing our weaknesses.

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'We have the potential to change the economic and business environment of our region and that is what our combined LEP will undertake to do.'

Andy Woods, chairman of Choose Suffolk and chief executive of Adnams added: 'Suffolk and Norfolk are the breadbasket of the UK. We are natural innovators and have world leading research. Working together, we know that East Anglia can become a great brand once more. The support behind this Lep is growing and it is the right way forward for business and for our economy.'

In a joint statement, Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, and Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council, said they looked forward to seeing a fully worked up proposal.

'We fully support this proposal and the business communities and local authorities are already working hard to support it and will work together to convince the Government that it is the right thing to do for the economies of Norfolk and Suffolk,' they said. 'We have common strengths, for example, in our energy and tourism sectors and have a great deal in common in terms of the issues facing our counties, with issues such as areas of deprivation, poor infrastructure and broadband weakness spanning across our county boundaries.'