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Philip Cox

Chief executive, Cheshire & Warrington LEP

IN A NUTSHELL, WHAT DOES YOUR COMPANY DO?

Local Enterprise Partnerships are partnerships between local authorities and local private sector businesses.  They play a central role in determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities to drive economic growth and job creation, improve infrastructure and raise workforce skills within the local area. We are one of 38 across England set up when the Coalition Government closed down the Regional Development Agencies. We are responsible for the area covered by Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Warrington, and we work very closely with the three local authorities.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN YOUR CURRENT JOB?

Almost four years.

EXPLAIN A TYPICAL WEEK IN YOUR WORKING LIFE:

I spend most of my time away from my desk either with my team, making sure we are on track delivering our objectives; getting out to talk to private sector businesses, checking that we are doing everything we can to help them be successful; or meeting local and national politicians and officials, making sure that they are delivering the things we need from them if we are to meet our targets. That means that in the past week I have been with the Prime Minister, spoken to two University Vice-Chancellors, met the Leader and Chief Executive of one of my local authorities, discussed the LEP’s long term budget with my head of Finance and chaired a seminar about how Cheshire and Warrington can address the “Grand Challenges” that the Prime Minister has laid down for us.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING YOUR INDUSTRY RIGHT NOW?

Preparing a Local Industrial Strategy that fits in with the Government’s national strategy whilst also meeting the LEP’s target of delivering inclusive economic growth to realise our ambition of doubling the size of the Cheshire and Warrington economy by 2040.

AND WHAT ARE THE BIG OPPORTUNITIES?

The big opportunity is the Cheshire and Warrington economy itself. Already outstanding – our output per person is the second highest in England outside London, and our rate of growth is the second highest in the UK – we have a tremendous platform to make Cheshire and Warrington an even greater place for everyone to live, work, invest, study and visit.

HOW DO YOU GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR STAFF?

We have made a conscious decision to keep our team small, but the people we do employ are all experts in their fields. My job is to make sure that all the members of the team are working towards the same set of objectives, but beyond that the best thing I can do is give them the space to deliver the right strategies for Cheshire and Warrington on skills, transport, energy, digital etc.

WHAT WAS YOUR LAST MEETING ABOUT, HOW LONG DID IT LAST, AND WAS IT PRODUCTIVE?

I aim to keep my meetings to an hour or less and go into all of them with a clear sense of what I want to achieve, even if sometimes it is only to make sure that our stakeholders, which range from MPs to local businesses and residents, are aware of what we are doing.

HOW MANY EMAILS DO YOU GET IN A DAY, AND HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE TO READ THEM?

I get a lot more emails every day than I actually see. That is because I have an excellent PA who sorts out which ones I need to deal with personally, and which of them can be dealt with more effectively by someone else in the team. I deal with them in the gaps between meetings, or at the beginning and end of every day.

DO YOU ANSWER WORK CALLS OR EMAILS AT HOME? WHAT’S THE RIGHT WORK-LIFE BALANCE?

I am really excited by the opportunities we have in Cheshire and Warrington, so if I have to do something at home in the evening, I’m happy to do so. That said, I’m not someone who insists on having his smartphone next to him on the beach!

HOW DO YOU HOPE YOUR COLLEAGUES WOULD DESCRIBE YOU?

I hope my colleagues would describe me as “authentic” and with a genuine enthusiasm for Cheshire and Warrington and what we can achieve here.

BREXIT – WHAT’S YOUR VIEW OF WHAT IT’S ALL GOING TO MEAN?

The message I hear from businesses is that the most damaging aspect of Brexit is the uncertainty about the way we will trade with the EU once we have left. Once we have some clarity about that we will be able to plan for a new future.

HIGHLIGHTS OR LOWLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR?

Prior to moving to Cheshire and Warrington, I’d spent my career in Whitehall, with many highlights, including two years as the head of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office under John Prescott; being a key member of the team that sold the Millennium Dome to create the O2 Arena, and overseeing the creation of the London Legacy Development Corporation, the body responsible for transforming the 2012 Olympic Park into a new part of London. I’m not sure I have had too many lowlights. You accept in the jobs that I have done during my career that you are subject to the whim of politicians or the electorate so there is always a risk that something will be stopped that you have been working on for ages.

PET HATES?

People who hide behind bureaucracy and process to avoid giving a straight answer to a question.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF SOME WISE ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I’ve had a great career, so I wouldn’t be recommending that my younger self makes too many radical changes. The one thing I would tell them, however, is to never be afraid of being challenged – it helps you think!

HOW DO YOU RELAX AWAY FROM WORK?

I spend time with my family or doing small amounts of DIY or gardening at home. My younger son and my daughter are also keen canoeists, so we paddle on the Cheshire canals when we can. 

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS SPECIAL ABOUT CHESHIRE, AND ITS BUSINESS COMMUNITY?

The perception of the sub-region as a leafy dormitory for Manchester is completely different from the reality. It is true that we have outstanding countryside, towns and villages, but very few people realise that we are the third largest economy in the north, that we produce one-quarter of the North West’s manufacturing output, that more people travel into Cheshire and Warrington in the morning to go to work than travel out and that our economy is stronger than most places in the South East. It’s clear therefore that our people are both talented and committed.  

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE PROBABLY WOULDN’T KNOW.

That my signature is preserved for posterity on a piece of Vellum in the House of Lords – I had to sign a map setting the boundaries of the London (Olympic) Legacy Development Corporation. Because they form part of a Parliamentary Order, maps such as these go on Vellum rather than paper to stop them deteriorating too quickly.

YOU CAN TAKE ONE BOOK, ONE FILM AND ONE CD ONTO A DESERT ISLAND – WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

When I am looking around an airport book shop for something to read on a plane, I’ll always drift towards the Science Fiction or Fantasy sections. For that reason, I think my book would be JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, my film would be Bladerunner, and my CD would be Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds.

YOUR FIVE DREAM DINNER PARTY GUESTS, DEAD OR ALIVE?

Tony Blair, Barbra Streisand, Victoria Wood, Arthur C Clarke, and Professor Brian Cox.

WHAT WOULD YOU COOK FOR THEM?

I’m afraid that if my guests are expecting something exotic or Cordon Bleu, they will be disappointed – I have a very practical approach to food, so I can cook a joint of beef, roast a chicken or scramble an egg, but I tend not to try anything more sophisticated.

 

http://www.@momanagement.co.uk
http://www.aaronandpartners.com

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