To receive a presentation from the Local Strategic Partnership Manager, John Houston.
The Meeting welcomed John Houston, the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) Manager. He was there to update the Committee on the LSPs work over the last year and the current projects that they were engaged in. He tabled the draft annual report for the LSP and the draft final report from their Tourism Taskforce. These would be available in electronic form on their website in due course.
He noted that the LSP membership consisted of senior figures from business and the voluntary and public sectors. These and other local groups were brought together to identify common problems and develop joined-up solutions by pooling their expertise. They were also able to commission research, identify gaps in provision and opportunities for new ways of working. They have an overarching Board that oversees the LSPs work; under that is an executive body (a steering group) for the day to day work and under this are four themed groups looking at crime and safety; health; children and lastly sustainability. They also have two taskforces (their equivalent of task and finish panels) looking at tourism and youth employment. As part of the work on youth unemployment they were hoping to have an officer from the Department of Work and Pensions seconded to them and an ECC Officer was already in place for one day a week.
They were concentrating on tourism last year via their Tourism Taskforce. Research has shown that this sector was worth about £200m annually to the local economy and comprised a significant percentage of local jobs. They noted that there was no joined up infrastructure in place for the various stakeholders to co-ordinate their work. They have now designed, built and launched a new website – www.visiteppingforest.org to represent the major attractions in the district. They have also agreed to produce the district’s first tourism development plan.
This Taskforce had no formal budget allocation; all work undertaken was supported by the individual partners and the One Epping Forest General Fund and contributions from partners.
They were also promoting local businesses, focusing on the retail sector. The business team of the partnership continued to be very active in leading and coordinating support for local businesses. They were continuing to develop the one shop local website (www.oneshopslocal.com) now with just over 300 traders registered. They had also hosted a seminar at Epping Forest College with the ECC to promote the roll out of Superfast Broadband. They also launched the Districts first business charter for local businesses, with pledges to use local contractors and pay quickly to aid cash flow.
Part of their remit was also to help organisations put in bids for external funding and the poverty and Disadvantage Report had recently been published to support this process.
The theme group on health had been rebuilt under the leadership of Dr Kamal Bishai and the support of officers from Epping Forest District Council.
The LSP also worked closely with the Safer Communities Partnership and the Council’s Safer Communities Team for the purpose of delivering safer communities and organising a range of events that targeted young people in the District. During the year the Partnership has supported a number of projects aimed at providing advice and assistance on crime-related issues especially to vulnerable groups.
The LSP was also working with the London Borough of Enfield and Broxbourne Council, jointly considering the future roles of glasshouses and to explore joint opportunities around productive landscapes. This included producing a first draft for an EU bid.
The meeting was then opened up to questions from members present.
Councillor Lion asked what was the LSP doing for new startup businesses. He was told that they used to have ‘business link’ but there was not the same amount of support at present. They were working with two companies one locally and one in Braintree to draw up a programme of support to small businesses. Traditionally the District had not invested as much as other authorities in Essex in economic development but this was beginning to change.
Councillor Philip commented that he was familiar with the websites but how about the LSP using social media such as tweeting.
Councillor Whitbread said that the LSP did a lot of positive work but there was always more to be done, such as for Economic Development and how that would fit into our Local Plan Package. The LSP does wider work for our community and we were fortunate that we could call on people to pull together and work together. This was a real plus for our district.
Councillor Chambers asked what Mr Houston meant when he spoke about the Food Trust. Mr Houston replied that we had strong food production industries in our area that could potentially provide food for London. This industry would also help in conserving our green belt status. We should also get more of the local youth trained up in this industry.
Councillor Bassett added that he had been in discussions with Enfield and Broxbourne councils about the use of green belt land and its use for agriculture. Capel Manor in Enfield acted as a sort of university for food development. The Mayor of London had recently given Enfield £600k to look at this. In effect we produce the food and Enfield has the distribution areas. This was something we should come together on and cooperate to make a bigger and better partnership working relationship.
The Chairman thanked Mr Houston for giving his time, for his presentation and answering the questions raised.