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GBSLEP shuffles the board, but website stuck on yesterday’s news

GBSLEP shuffles the board, but website stuck on yesterday’s news

🕔31.Mar 2015

It’s not received much publicity, indeed it may have gone almost entirely unreported until now, but the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership has appointed two new board members and is looking to recruit three more, reports Paul Dale.

GBSLEP has announced it has disposed with the services of three “valued” colleagues in what appears to be a significant shake-up at the top of the organisation.

New faces include the Institute of Asian Businesses president Saqib Bhatti who has joined the board along with Mike Hopkins, principal of South and City College.

On the way out and leaving the GBSLP board are Norman Cave, former principal of Bournville College, Chris Webster, the former (or “formally” as the press release put it) CEO of Miller Construction, and Razar Samar, of RUS Chartered Accountants.

Webster has been responsible for leading on the “optimising assets” element of the LEP’s strategy for growth and championing the Enterprise Zone (EZ).

Samar had the reducing regulation and championing business diversity portfolio.

Not that you would know about this by looking at the GBSLEP website, which hasn’t caught up with the changing faces and still lists Webster and Samar as directors. Hopkins does get a mention on the board directors page, but he has been in post since January even though his appointment was only made public last week.

A recruitment exercise to fill various GBSLEP positions has just started.

The LEP is seeking a new lead board director for “optimising assets” as a replacement for Mr Webster, as well as a “social enterprise champion” and a “sector champion for food and drink”.

Sadly, a link from the GBSLEP website for further details about the roles and recruitment process doesn’t work.

The handling of the board changes is bound to raise questions about the transparency and democratic accountability of an organisation which is responsible for handling ever growing sums of public money.

While GBSLEP’s activities are overseen by a supervisory committee consisting of council leaders, the board has day to day responsibility for overseeing the Government’s Growth Deal, which will see £380 million invested in the area between 2016 and 2021.

The Birmingham city centre enterprise zone, which it is claimed will deliver 40,000 jobs and add £2 billion a year to the economy, is a key GBSLEP project, as is UK Central – the regeneration area around the M42 Corridor and Birmingham Airport.

The £275 million Enterprise Zone Investment Plan is supporting a wide range of projects including Paradise, Midland Metro Extension to Centenary Square, Garrison Data Centre, iCentrum, and Masshouse. The EZ has spent £18 million in the past financial year, which has brought around 60,000 square metres of new and refurbished space and nearly 1,000 jobs.

Andy Street, the GBSLEP chair, paid tribute to the departing board members.

I would like to thank our outgoing directors and welcome our new members to the team. In particular I’d like to mention the contribution Chris Webster has made in the last three years. He has committed a lot of time and energy to taking forward the LEP’s agenda, working closely with a wide range of partners to bring forward sites for housing and employment use.

His work has included overseeing the development of the LEP’s spatial plan and a programme of regeneration proposals that secured investment in the Growth Deal. He has also supported the delivery of the public assets element of the City Deal which saw the first site, part of the Advanced Manufacturing Hub, released to market in January.

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