The appointment of Julie Kapsalis as the new Vice Chair of the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership is clearly very good news, as she will understand a number of aspects of the regions business interests. Her appointment is vital, but some of the criteria for the role she has just been appointed to is not sustainable as I have explained below. It has been stated in this announcement that Julie is passionate about supporting business growth with a particular interest in skills and enterprise, a theme that her own organisation is focused on. She also states “I am passionate about our work to support sustainable economic growth particularly our business support and grants programmes.” Her own knowledge of the profile of the region’s economy and the need to engage a broad range of businesses should help the LEP to bring in the change that is needed for the Board itself.
One of the clear gaps on the C2C LEP Board as is the case in most LEPs is the profile of the members when compared to the businesses they are seeking to engage with and support. Clearly if Julie can use her role as Vice Chair to change this profile that would demonstrate that the LEP is preparing for a more effective future. The current Board is made up of 10 Private Sector representatives who include the Chair of the Board and three education sector representatives including Julie as Vice Chair. These 13 Board members work alongside 6 Local Authority Council Leaders. The Private Sector representatives are from a range of businesses or are recently retired from businesses apart from Amanda Jones who is the Deputy Chief Executive & Director of Finance for Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival which is a major Arts Charity.
The profile of the Businesses in our region is similar to that across the nation as a whole and is made up of 76.3% sole traders, of whom none are included on the C2C Board. The sole traders are a much larger group than any other, but the income they generate only represents 7% of the regions income.
Across the region 19.5% of businesses employ one to 10 people and have a turnover of less than £2m which defines them as Micro Enterprises and 3.4% of businesses employ between 10 and 49 people and have a turnover of less than £10m which defines them as Small Businesses. Together these two groups represent 23% of businesses and generate 23% of our regions income. There is currently only one person on the Board whose business matches either of these descriptions who is Claire Mason who has the role of SME Champion.
The next group which is the Medium Sized Businesses is well represented on the board even though it represents merely 0.6% of the businesses in our region. Medium sized businesses employ less than 250 people and have a turnover of less than £50m and in our region they generate 13% of the regions income. The board includes four members who represent this part of the economy either in their current roles or in their role from which they retired.
Finally the rest of the businesses in our region represent 0.13% of the business numbers although they provide over half of our economies turnover between them and again there are four board members including the Chair who come from this part of the business sector.
One of the challenges of being part of a Board like C2C is that despite the investment of time that is demanded, there is no remuneration available unlike business and public sector boards. It gives the impression that LEPs are charities which of course is not true even if they are not agencies intended to make a profit, in the same way as Councils don’t make a profit. Unlike some other LEPs C2C does at least offer expenses to people who have roles like the Vice Chair. However Julie is expected to work for 2 days a month which makes this role unsustainable for sole traders, small or micro business employees or owners without some form of remuneration. Clearly medium and large businesses have the scope to ensure that if they are represented on a LEP board, that their representatives will not lose any income but if LEPs like C2C are going to expand the Small and Micro business representatives or add in a sole trader or two, they need to ensure that board members are not forced to lose personal or business income.