10 January 2024

A New Year Message from Chair of Dorset LEP, Cecilia Bufton

A New Year Message from Chair of Dorset LEP, Cecilia Bufton

Continuing to secure economic prosperity for Dorset in 2024

A new year often brings a sense of focus and renewed priorities and here at Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership that’s certainly the case. Since the formation of Dorset LEP in 2011 it has been our mission to bring together business, education and local government leaders, to drive sustainable economic growth in Dorset. 

While the role, remit and funding of Dorset LEP has changed over this time the central premise of a strong local partnership, bringing different perspectives together with a common goal of securing economic prosperity for our area, has remained constant. You can read more about our recent impacts in our 2022/23 Annual Report

Last year saw further expected change in the LEP landscape. The Chancellor confirmed that from April 2024, central government funding for LEP core functions (defined as business representation, local economic planning, and the delivery of government programmes), will be managed by combined authorities or upper tier local authorities serving areas with a minimum 500,000 population. This means that Dorset and BCP Councils will have joint responsibility for these functions as we work together to decide our future approach.

So, what does this mean for Dorset business?

Dorset LEP will, continue to serve Dorset business, delivering on our budgeted plan to March 2025, as we begin to prepare for and transition to a long-term delivery model that suits the needs and ambitions of the area. 

We will use this time to consult with local businesses as government guidance reminds us that any new arrangements must continue to ensure that a strong, independent, and diverse business voice is embedded into the decision-making process.  I would encourage those business leaders with ideas and opportunities for driving economic prosperity in Dorset, to get in touch

For now, we carry on with our programme of activities, working in partnership to offer a forum for Dorset businesses to share best practice, develop skills and careers for our young people and drive economic and employment growth. 

2024 Economic outlook

Current assessments expect economic growth in 2024 to remain slow, with many SMEs reporting no improvement to sales, cash flow or investment (Ref 1). Interest rates and inflation remain at historically high levels, recruitment challenges continue and house prices, although slowing nationally, remain at unaffordable levels for many in Dorset. 

Local and general elections expected this year, give business the opportunity to work together with politicians to address these issues, aiming to create the conditions for business to succeed, support delivery of the houses we need for our workforce, influence the development of infrastructure to move our people, goods and data, progress our skills and careers programmes and encourage investment in the places our communities feel proud to call home. This is why we’re hosting a one-day conference (27 February) on ‘Homes and the Economy’ in Bournemouth and have some exciting new programmes launching over the coming months in support of Business growth, Skills and Careers for Dorset. 

Thank you to all our partners for their continued support we look forward to continuing to work with you in 2024.

Cecilia Bufton, Chair Dorset LEP

Ref.1 - Based on BCC Quarterly Economic Survey

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