Ray Browning is Programme Manager at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Having joining the LEP from Northumberland County Council in 2015, Ray manages the £270 million Local Growth Fund programme running until 2021, a role which includes identifying the criteria for project selection and appraisal, monitoring and evaluation. He brings a unique perspective to IED membership, having been a member and now a Fellow for nearly 25 years.
“My passion for economic development began in 1988 when I was working in North Tyneside Council’s planning department which gradually evolved into an economic development unit in its own right, one of the first in the country,” Ray recalled. “I first became an IED member in 1994 and helped to set up the then North-East branch of the IED, acting as Branch Secretary for almost 10 years. It has always been my wish to get involved with others in the profession, sharing knowledge, experience and know-how. Economic development needs an entrepreneurial and dynamic approach with opportunities to engage with other professionals and share best practice – this is something that the IED has facilitated throughout my career.”
Ray has seen the IED’s external engagement activities evolve over time and pinpointed events as being particularly valuable. “I like the way these have been shaped by reaching out to members and asking what we want, they are all led by member needs,” he said. “In July 2018 I went to the Cushman and Wakefield masterclass in Leeds on how to make strong business cases for public sector funding in infrastructure and property. This was very well attended, brought practitioners from around the region, and the feedback was very positive. I am also booked into the 2018 annual conference and certainly one of my most memorable IED experiences in recent times was Sir Vince Cable’s presentation there a couple of years ago. I don’t think I’ve seen a senior politician grasp and articulately convey such a sharp and thought-provoking view on contemporary macro economic challenges. Generally, I find the quality of IED events is high and compares well with others.”
The knowledge and insight provided by the IED is also a key benefit of membership, Ray said. “On a monthly basis the Bulletin is very useful – the right size and not too heavy, the topics are pertinent and very appropriate to what I do, and it is very well prepared and edited,” he explained. “But we also know the IED has its finger on the pulse around policy issues that affect its membership. The briefing on European Funding (ESIF Programme 2013-2020) published in July 2018 was tremendous added value for members and a good example of how IED is impartially representing the interests of practitioners on practical matters that affect them. And the Excellence in Economic Development self-assessment toolkit is a good opportunity for members to really understand the benefits of being part of the IED.”
Ray encouraged more LEPs, organisationally and for individual staff, to consider IED membership. “Following the LEP Review, published in July 2018, LEPs will be increasingly scrutinised on how they operate and their adherence to good professional practice,” he said. “They need suitably qualified people to drive these organisations and a relationship with the IED is important. LEPs must look to improve the way they work and make sure that practitioners work to a high professional standard. The IED is all about that. As an active member, the IED is very good value for money.”