The new chairman of Opportunity Peterborough has spoken of the challenges ahead for the city’s economic development company.
Dr Angus Kennedy, who has just taken up the reins for the £1.5 million income agency from outgoing chairman John Bridge, says a rapidly changing economic and political landscape will pose new questions.
In particular, he flagged up the need to build closer links with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and the Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough LEP.
He said: “We will have to convince the new administrations about us.
“Opportunity Peterborough (OP) is a deliverer of services and I hope we will be a key partner for both of these organisations.
“It is not the toughest challenge OP has faced, but it will be a difficult time for us.”
For Dr Kennedy the very fact of OP’s survival - it was created in 2005 when he joined the board - is proof its services are in demand.
OP was created as an urban regeneration company, tasked to identify and bring about the development of areas in need,
At the time there was a flurry of UDCs across the country. Now only OP survives albeit in a different form.
Dr Kennedy said: “None of the others have survived. OP has evolved and is now an economic development company.
“At the start it was well funded and had government backing and support from EEDA, English Partnerships and the city council.”
Now the emphasis is on OP, which has 23 staff, identifing its own funding streams. Last year, OP received £175,000 from Peterborough City Council, with that sum set to drop to £100,000 next year. In addition, OP secured £44,460 from events and sponsorship, £13,750 from Bondholder Network subscriptions. Its Smart Cities project delivery brought in £403,380, its Skills Service funding with GCGCP LEP netted £265,000 while specific project funding brought in £641,334. Its income last year was £1,543,104.
Dr Kennedy is best known for his work as chief executive of the award-winning £320 million Castle Vale Housing Action Trust in Birmingham. He was born at Helpston, went to Deacon’s Grammar School in Peterborough, and is a Posh supporter.
He said: “No other group does what OP does. It’s success can be judged by the huge number of people that attend its events such as its Bondholder Dinner. I’m proud of the achievements OP has delivered – regeneration projects like transforming Cathedral Square, to economic development work supporting local companies and attracting new businesses.
“OP has a range of contractual key performance indicators and targets that it has to meet for its partners and clients as well as those covering internal operations management.”
“As a city, whose growth Opportunity Peterborough is here to support, there are ambitions around increasing jobs numbers, prosperity and skills levels, and OP reinforces these aspirations through Economic Growth, Productivity and Profile-raising.”
“We have seen high levels of jobs growth in jobs with 2,685 announced in 2016/17, and during that year, OP helped to support the creation or safeguarding of around 1,900 jobs.”
OP has secured additional funding for the city through programmes such as the Future Cities Demonstrator (£3 million) and the LEADER programme, which has brought £1.2 million, which is new money to support business growth in rural Peterborough and Rutland.
Under the former scheme, over £180,000 was awarded to 11 local businesses to develop new innovations while under the LEADER programme over £120,000 has been awarded to rural projects this year.