£5m worth of 'social value' created by county's growth deal projects

Lancashire was given a 320m government growth deal in 2014. Picture: Alan Bewley
Lancashire was given a 320m government growth deal in 2014. Picture: Alan Bewley
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A government growth deal for Lancashire has generated more than £5m of so-called “social value”, according to the organisation overseeing how the money is spent.

The county’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) received £320m from Whitehall back in 2014 to fund projects designed to boost the region’s economy. These have included the redesign of Preston city centre’s main shopping streets, a plan to develop a conference centre and hotel at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool and the creation of a health innovation campus at Lancaster University.

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As part of assessing the impact of more than 40 investments either made or planned across the county, the LEP has designed a method of calculating their worth to society as a whole.

It is estimated that £5.5m of social value has been created, with the vast majority coming from the number of apprenticeships offered by growth deal projects, as well as job opportunities for residents from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A meeting of the LEP’s growth deal management board heard that the method of calculating the wider benefits of such projects may underestimate their true value.

“The figure does not include a large chunk of spending generated by procurement from small and medium-sized businesses [in the county],” Martin Hill, Skills and Enterprise Co-ordinator, said.

“[The investment] also raises the profile of community projects and volunteers - and this is not necessarily being captured,” he added.

One board member highlighted the difficulty of reflecting the more unexpected benefits of growth deal investment.

“Some of the stories have been fantastic - like the workmen on a tram project in Blackpool who revived a man who collapsed nearby or the workshop which was also used to make toys for local children,” Alan Cavill said.

More than three quarters of growth deal projects which are underway are reporting some level of social value.

“Lancashire has been ahead of the game and that has set us in good stead for future bids [for funding],” Graham Cowley, chair of the growth deal management board, said.

“Inclusive growth is a major element of maximising investment in Lancashire,” he added.