Five years since its launch, the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Business Support Service has helped 14,800 businesses across the region grow and develop and is now playing a key role in firms’ recovery from COVID-19. Since the Business Support Service was set up in 2015, the LEP’s one-stop shop for business support and advice has helped to create over 9,000 jobs and 3,000 apprenticeships in the region.
Working in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, the LEP has invested nearly £49 million into businesses across the region, unlocking a further £339 million of private sector investment, and has delivered over 24,000 support interventions, including providing access to over 100 different types of business support, either from the LEP itself or its partners.
The LEP is now playing a vital role in helping firms meet the challenges presented by COVID-19. From March to May, the service has seen an 80 per cent increase in the number of enquiries it has received compared to the same period last year, with cash-flow and access to finance the biggest concerns raised. In response, the LEP has put in place a range of newly-adapted programmes to help small to medium enterprises navigate the crisis.
The scale of the economic impact is clear. By the end of May, the number of jobs supported by the Government’s furlough scheme was 344,000 in Leeds City Region and 256,000 in West Yorkshire – 28 per cent of all employees. Natwest’s recent UK Regional Purchasing Managers Index survey showed business activity in Yorkshire & Humber in May declined to its second lowest ever reading.
To meet the challenge head on, the Business Support Service now offers webinars featuring top tips on how to apply for finance and make contingency plans; funding to invest in new equipment; online digital skills training for furloughed staff and grants to encourage employees to cycle to work. Plans are also underway to launch a new scheme to make it easier for SMEs to purchase new technology to adapt to remote working and trading.
Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the LEP and NP11 said:
“The LEP has a strong track record in championing SMEs and the number of businesses we have supported in the last five years is testament to that.
“As we play a key role in supporting the region’s response to and recovery from COVID-19 we are doing all we can to make sure the right measures are put in place to help our region’s businesses through this unprecedented challenge so that we can build a more successful, sustainable and inclusive economy.”
Andrew Wright, Chair of the LEP Business Innovation and Growth Panel said:
“I’ve seen how the LEP has expanded the service in these tough times to help businesses hit by the Coronavirus crisis. Given the scale of the challenge that businesses are facing, its work will continue to provide vital support to all in the region, protecting and helping to create jobs for the next five years.”
To read more and for the full story, please visit the LEP website.