LEP puts in place support to help Leeds City Region businesses through Brexit

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has put in place a range of support to help businesses and the City Region economy adapt to new economic conditions as a result of the UK's exit from the European Union.

24 January 2019

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has put in place a range of support to help businesses and the City Region economy adapt to new economic conditions as a result of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

According to a report considered by the LEP Board yesterday, only 10% of firms in the City Region have so far made changes to their strategies or operational model in response to Brexit. This figure has come to light following the most recent quarterly economic survey of businesses conducted by the region’s Chambers of Commerce in partnership with the LEP.

The survey highlights that some 60% of businesses are not considering making any changes to their business strategy, even after the UK leaves the EU.

Measures being put in place by the LEP and its partners to help those companies prepare include: signposting by the LEP’s Growth Service to support from public and private sector bodies; the exploration of flexibilities to LEP business grant programmes to help businesses cope with potential market volatility immediately after the UK’s withdrawal; and focused support to maintain record-high levels of inward investment and exports after Brexit.

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the LEP, said: “With the detail of any Brexit deal still unclear, businesses need support to help them plan for possible eventualities.

“Working with our public and private sector partners, we are doing what we can to help businesses prepare for the potential opportunities and challenges of Brexit.

“Through our work with foreign-owned companies in the region we are identifying opportunities to bring forward new commercial investment and build new trade relationships with overseas markets. We also intend to explore quickly the introduction of flexibilities to our business grant criteria to provide short-term investment to help firms manage any unintended consequences of Brexit.

“More broadly, we are doing all we can to allocate as much of our City Region’s current European funding allocation by the end of March, and are continuing to press the case to Government for an ambitious post-Brexit funding settlement for our region that will allow us to continue our positive growth.”

In a letter to Government seeking agreement in principle for the proposed flexibilities around its business grant criteria, the LEP and West Yorkshire Combined Authority have made it clear that stabilising the City Region economy should come ahead of existing rules around use of funding pots.

The LEP’s Growth Service – which acts as a one stop shop for information about the support available for businesses in the region – is also providing information about the latest support packages available from Government and other bodies to prepare businesses for a post-Brexit trading model. Information is available at: http://www.the-lep.com/lets-talk-brexit/

In addition to funding and general information about business support, the LEP is taking specific steps to link businesses with trade support from UKTI, Chambers of Commerce and other bodies, and is also continuing to build trade relationships with overseas markets.

In January, the LEP will once again coordinate a trade delegation to the Arab Health showcase in Dubai, which last year saw local medical technology firms such as Paxman, Surfaceskins, Brandon Medical, Tissuemed and York Instruments connect with potential buyers from 65 countries worldwide.

New approaches to attracting new business investment to the region are continuing to see results, with over 30 potential investment projects identified as a result of the LEP’s investor development programme so far, which focuses on building strategic relationships with foreign-owned firms in the region.

Recent investments in the region as a result of this programme include Mastek, an Indian-owned global IT firm which is set to create 70 new jobs in its national graduate development centre in Leeds, and Fitek, an Estonian FinTech business specialising in e-invoice solutions, which has expanded in to the UK market and established an office in the City Region.

Despite the uncertainty of Brexit, the latest City Region quarterly economic survey highlights that businesses largely remained resilient throughout 2018. Confidence in profitability increased in both manufacturing and service sectors in the last 18 months.

The robustness of the City Region’s services sector – which represents 80% of businesses – meant the region outperformed the national picture last year, with businesses ending 2018 on a three year domestic sales high.

However, a notable dip in business confidence in the last quarter suggests that that businesses are feeling the uncertainty of Brexit.

In line with the national picture manufacturing businesses are reporting a slowing in the pace of growth, with many manufacturers warning that costs of goods will need to increase.

Recent trade figures also provide events of a slowdown in export growth, although from a historically strong position. The total number of businesses exporting from the UK increased by 1.5% between quarter three of 2017 and quarter three of 2018. The number of businesses in Yorkshire & the Humber, however, grew by only 0.9% over the same period.