SEMLEP – Is It About To Implode?
I have it on very good authority from people who last year were very instrumental and supportive that Northampton be the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnerships (SEMLEP) nominated Enterprise Zone application that they are now beginning to have misgivings and are concerned about whether it will be successful.
As history shows the support from the regions local authority leaders of all political persuasions and MP’s saw Northampton awarded the largest Enterprise Zone in England which is designed to bring up to 13,000 new jobs to the town in the next 3 to 5 years.
The concerns as expressed to me over the weekend is that Northampton is perceived by some of our partners in SEMLEP as being in the process of ‘taking everything’ and ‘giving nothing back’. There are also concerns that the policy being followed by the Northampton Borough Council is one which is intended to see them leave SEMLEP and move their allegiance to the Northamptonshire LEP (NEP) which is funded by the Northamptonshire County Council taxpayers.
It is a very serious situation for the future of Northampton, if true, and even if the fears of SEMLEP members prove to be unfounded it will cast doubts on the reliability of promises made to partners, both local authorities and businesses by Northampton Borough Council.
If people are now prepared to acknowledge and talk about the worrying perceptions of partners, they will quite probably also have been shared with officials from CLG and BIS who were promised that on the award of the Enterprise Zone NBC would honour their promises made to remain a full partner of SEMLEP.
What would be even more dangerous would be the impact on possible investors in the Enterprise Zone if the major SEMLEP business partners believe that promises will be reneged on which in turn would destroy confidence in the commitment and ability to deliver and support the SEMLEP Northampton Enterprise Zone.
What my contacts tell me is that they have very real concerns that SEMLEP is travelling down a road which will lead to it imploding and the consequential impact on Northampton which will not only be immediate but reverberate for years to come.
I wrote some time ago questioning whether the Enterprise Zone was in danger of becoming not so much a Waterside but Watered-down EZ.
I truly hope the fears expressed to me are not true, but it is something I will certainly be keeping in focus because the impact of a failure to deliver the employment in the SEMLEP Waterside EZ would be staggering in its impact.