For the Committee to receive a presentation on the work carried out by Enterprise M3 from Stephen Martin, Joint Managing Director of Enterprise M3.
The Committee welcomed Stephen Martin, Joint Managing Director of Enterprise M3, to the meeting.
Stephen Martin provided Members with a presentation covering the activities that Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) had carried out over the past year both in the Borough and the wider region. A total of £726 million had been injected into the region over the past ten years.
The LEP had contributed significant funding to transport infrastructure in the Borough in previous years. However, with the introduction of the Levelling Up Fund and UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the LEP had not provided such funding recently. The LEP regularly liaised with Woking Borough Council departments to ensure the work of the Growth Hub dovetailed with that of the Council’s Woking Works Initiative. The Growth Hub had provided one to one support to thirty Woking businesses over the previous several years. Part of work of the Growth Hub provided specialist advice for businesses on how to reduce their carbon footprint and taking advantage of opportunities in the low carbon sector.
Enterprise M3 continued to provide loans and equity investments to small businesses with high growth potential that otherwise struggled to access conventional funding from the commercial sector. Following a question from a Member of the Committee, Stephen Martin confirmed that the loans were typically for a period of two or three years.
Stephen Martin provided a summary of several sectors that the LEP was focused on for the next several years. Members were particularly interested in how Woking could foster those sectors including the environmental and digital sectors. These aligned with priorities of both the Council and Enterprise M3.
Enterprise M3 had recently formed a ‘Jet Zero’ cluster. As it had only recently formed there were no timescales attached and Stephen Martin was focused on allowing it to foster naturally.
The LEP had provided significant support to the videogames industry, focused primarily in Guildford. Stephen Martin undertook to confirm if any Woking videogames companies had benefitted from the support of Enterprise M3 outside of the meeting.
Another Local Authority had approached Enterprise M3 to develop a strategy for targeting the rural economy. Both Members and Stephen Martin were keen to see such a strategy expand to include Woking Borough.
Stephen Martin encouraged Members and the Council to contact Enterprise M3 for all sectors identified as potential to grow in the Borough.
The Committee was pleased by the focus placed on supporting youth with the creation of several initiatives by Enterprise M3. One scheme connected employers and schools as well as provided schools with professional contacts that helped ensure the careers provision matched the careers market. Enterprise M3 continued to provide support for teachers to understand the careers opportunity for pupils and students in the Green sector. A separate fund had been created that supported further education institutions to promote provision of relevant skills needed in the Green sector.
The LEP had organised a careers fair that connected pupils and students with industry professionals and promoted multiple avenues of further education.
In conjunction with Surrey Chambers of Commerce, Enterprise M3 was developing a local skills development plan to map a set of actions to encourage relevant post-sixteen technical skills that met the needs of the local economy. The Plan was a Department for Education initiative.
The LEP continued to run a skills advisory panel to connect industry with skills providers with an aim to make skills provision more reactive to market needs. The advisory panel considered all sectors but keen focus was on areas where a lack of skills had been identified.
The LEP was working with local authorities to construct a fibre spine between Basingstoke and Guildford that would increase the connectivity of businesses along the route. Members were disappointed that Woking would not benefit from the fibre spine and were keen for the Council and Enterprise M3 to discuss introducing a similar scheme into the Borough. Stephen Martin agreed to hold discussions with the Council to scope such an infrastructure project.
During the recent Government budget it was announced that the work of Local Enterprise Partnerships was being considered for absorption into local authorities and a consultation questionnaire had been circulated to LEPs and local authorities. Nevertheless, Stephen Martin confirmed that this would have no impact on the work of Enterprise M3 for the 2023-24 year. Members were keen to know if Enterprise M3 could become an independent company should funding from Central Government be withdrawn. Due to the recency of the announcement Stephen Martin was not in a position to answer the question. Stephen Martin confirmed that Enterprise M3 wanted to make any such decisions in consultation with local authorities.
Following a question from a Member on support for businesses based in homes, Stephen Martin agreed to provide more information from the Growth Hub outside of the meeting.
Stephen Martin confirmed that the Leadership Panel, by which representatives of local authorities met with Enterprise M3, continued to be held regularly.
Councillor Azad and all Members of the Committee thanked Stephen Martin for attending the meeting.