Yesterday in the House of Lords, a Government Minister who I happen to have worked with on several occasions made a statement that was part of a debate on amendment 8 as part of the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill. Elizabeth Berridge was the coordinator of the Conservative Christian Fellowship and so when I was coordinating the Sussex Churches Together, on the few occasions when the Conservative Party had a conference in Sussex (in Brighton) I helped to arrange local events. After she moved on from that job Elizabeth was sent up to the House of Lords by David Cameron. Anyway back to local skills in Sussex. So as part of her comments on the discussion of the amendment, Elizabeth made the following statement
I would also like to take this moment to update the House that we have announced the local skills improvement plan trailblazers, literally within the last hour, and I will now outline them to noble Lords. In the north of England, we have Cumbria Chamber of Commerce covering Cumbria, Doncaster Chamber will cover Sheffield City Region, the North East England Chamber of Commerce will cover Tees Valley, and North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce will cover Lancashire. In the Midlands, East Midlands Chamber will cover Leicester and Leicestershire. In the south of England, GWE Business West will cover the west of England, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce will cover Kent and Medway, and Sussex Chamber of Commerce will cover Sussex. In relation to the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and others, if you look also at the strategic development pilots alongside those areas, you will see a multiplicity of providers, including FE colleges, institutes of technology and universities. By the very nature of those bids, we can see that there has been a great deal of co-ordination in these areas, with the support, where relevant, of the mayoral combined authority.
As it happens 45 minutes later there was a debate on amendment 15 which involved a contribution from Lord Ralph Lucas which included this comment
It is also hard to see, given the current make-up of the chamber, how it will have access to a deep skills base in areas where Sussex is not currently strong. There are a lot of skills required in the City of London which are not well represented in Sussex, which is not one of the great centres of the IT industry. There are a lot of areas where it does extremely well, but it is hard to see how you can take an organisation such as the Sussex chamber of commerce, which does very well in trying to knit together the varied economic landscape across this very hard-to-travel region and turn it into something that knows everything about skills in the local area, let alone something that has a real grip on skills nationally, unless we are providing it with a strong source of information on the national picture that it can build into the foundations of what it is trying to achieve locally.
So I look forward to finding out more from the Chamber of Commerce which will no doubt involve Ana Christie who is the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. Because we are members of the Chamber I know Ana very well and I hope that small businesses like ours will be enabled to benefit from this proposal.