Bernstein: Institutions ready to invest in Jessica

More than 200 people turned out at The Palace Hotel in Manchester this morning to hear city council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein outline the future shape of economic development support in Greater Manchester.

Bernstein said undisclosed institutional funds had agreed "in principle" to provide debt of "between £300m and £400m" to add to the Jessica fund being established with European Regional Development Fund and North West Development Agency money and underwritten by the European Investment Bank. Jessica will invest in urban development property schemes, principally office-led, that can produce a return to reinvest in future projects. The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities-run Jessica (Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas) pot will be made up of two pools, one for Greater Manchester and one for Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire. There will be a separate fund for Merseyside.

Bernstein added that lobbying was ongoing to ensure management of other ERDF funds – currently handled by the North West Development Agency – stayed within the sub-region and were not absorbed by Whitehall.

Other points in Bernstein's speech this morning included:

  • A shadow Local Enterprise Partnership board is in the process of being established to ensure "rapid, structured transition" from Regional Development Agencies to a new fully operational LEP
  • The shadow board will include four representatives from Greater Manchester local authorities, chairmen of Midas (inward investment), Marketing Manchester, Manchester Solutions (business support) and the AGMA Business Leadership Council
  • In answer to a question on planning guidance, Bernstein said a Greater Manchester spatial strategy will be drawn up for consultation, to replace the broader Regional Spatial Strategy abolished by the new Government
  • Bernstein is asking Government for an initial £3m to £5m over two years from the Government's new £1bn Regional Growth Fund to establish the LEP administration
  • "We have received very significant support from RDA and Government departments to proceed with the shadow board as quickly as possible," he said
  • Additional private sector representatives will be recruited in early 2011 to the LEP

In terms of the policy and spending priorities of the Greater Manchester LEP, the business plan will follow the Manchester Independent Economic Review written by economic researchers and published in April 2009.

Bernstein restated some of the priorities as set out in the MIER:

  • Create employment sites that reflect not just "individual local authority aspirations but also the realities of the marketplace". A piece of work is currently being undertaken to do this
  • Tackling worklessness and benefit dependency, there are currently 100,000 people in Greater Manchester on incapacity benefit
  • Connecting local firms to international markets. Identifying and engaging with emerging markets such as Brazil
  • Ensuring the local higher education science and research sector forms effective partnerships with Government and other funding bodies
  • Continue to drive tourism and invest in visitor infrastructure
  • Identify and support low carbon initiatives
  • Maintain focus on the right priorities in planning, housing, transport and economic development, especially when there is less public funding around

Also speaking at this morning's event, organised by Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, were Angie Robinson, chief executive of the chamber, and Richard Guy, chief executive of Manchester Solutions. Robinson leaves the chamber to take up the role of chief executive of Midas next week.

LEP bids must be submitted by sub-regional organisations to Government for consideration by 6 September.

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