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Mayor welcomes another ‘positive step forward’ for Business Board


Mayor welcomes another ‘positive step forward’ for Business Board

Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Dr Nik Johnson has welcomed a change to future meetings of the Business Board where they will be held in public unless the chair decides otherwise.

The Business Board is the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for the region and works with employers, the education and skills sector, and local authority partners to help grow the economy, support businesses and create jobs.

A process which began in March 2021 with the Combined Authority’s Audit and Governance Committee has resulted in the change to the format of the Business Board meetings. They will be public unless decided otherwise by the chair – who is engineering sector executive Austen Adams – to allow commercially sensitive and confidential items to be discussed. It will also allow for open and frank exchanges of information and views to be expressed that might not otherwise be offered in an open forum. This forms an important element within governance arrangements.

The decision to change the format of the meeting was unanimously approved by the Business Board at its September 14 meeting, and then ratified by the Combined Authority Board at is September 29 meeting.

Mayor Dr Johnson also welcomed the recent reappointment of four of the Business Board’s longest serving members, including Mr Adams, to serve another term.

The Board is made up of experienced local business leaders from a range of backgrounds including as executives, entrepreneurs, consultants and academics. Mayor Dr Johnson and Deputy Mayor, Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald, are also members of the Business Board.

Mayor Dr Johnson said:

“Becoming Mayor in May also afforded me a seat on the Business Board. The range of insight and expertise on the Board is an asset to our region and the investments being made are paying dividends in terms of prosperity and jobs across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“The Board also want to continuously improve how they work, and their unanimous approval of this format change to public meetings is another step in a positive direction.

“I’m delighted that at the same time four of our most experienced Board members have also agreed to serve another term.

“The current Business Board has had to pick up the pieces of the failed investment in the iMET training centre from the previous and now dissolved Local Enterprise Partnership. I have not been shy in saying how angry I was at this waste of public money. However, I’m confident that today’s Business Board and Combined Authority would never have funded that project and that we have the right checks and balances in place.

“Everyone realises that good governance leads to better decisions, and we must never be complacent on this point.

“And the Business Board and Combined Authority has approved an offer from a local company for the iMET building. It is not a consolation, but the sale, if finalised, will return around £2.4 million to the public purse, and allow a good local company, employing local people, to expand. That at least represents some salvage from the situation.”

Among the Business Board’s responsibilities is the Local Growth Fund (LGF) programme, and since taking over from the previous LEP the indications are that it is on track to deliver better outcomes and gain greater value for money for each output.

Looking at cost per job created, the early LGF projects awarded by the previous LEP delivered a job for every £71,000 invested. Initial data for the wider programme under stewardship of the Business Board now suggests a much-improved cost per job of around £24,000, and the most recent Local Growth Fund investments by the Business Board is delivering at an average cost per job of just £7,500, which is almost a ten times improvement in cost per job compared to the previous LEP.