Heart of the South West Devolution - Newsletter 15

Leaders for the Heart of the South West

                                       June 2018

The Heart of the South West Joint Committee met for the second time on 25 May 2018. The Leader of Somerset County Council (Cllr David Fothergill) was returned as the Chair of the Committee and the Leader of South Hams District Council (Cllr John Tucker) was elected Vice-chair.


Productivity Strategy Delivery Plan

A priority for the Joint Committee is designing the Delivery Plan for the Productivity Strategy.   The Committee learnt of the investment activity already going on across the area from the Chief Executive of the Local Enterprise Partnership and which demonstrates the strengths of working together on a common goal. This activity will be further developed in the Delivery Plan and is consistent with partnership’s approach of working flexibly at different levels, scaling up or down as required by the activity, across boundaries and structures with neighbouring areas, and focusing on delivery of results. Judging by the summary of recent achievements below this approach works well.  

Recent achievements include:

  • £100m Lloyds Bank Investment fund to help small businesses take advantage of supply chain opportunities in the construction of Hinkley Point nuclear power station
  • £62m of Housing Infrastructure Fund Marginal Viability Funding for new housing schemes
  • £120m Housing Infrastructure Fund Forward Funding bid which has made it through to next round
  • £82m for the North Devon Link Road from the Large Local Majors Transport Fund
  • The selection of the Heart of the South West being selected as one of two areas in the country to benefit from being designated as a Digital Skills Pilots Area, with the establishment of the new Digital Skills Partnership
  • Funding of £1.7m for a Careers Pilot focused on skills in North Devon, Torbay, West Somerset and Plymouth
  • Our bid with Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for an Institute of Technology is through to the next round
  • £600k of funding has been awarded for our Growth Hub to deliver business support programmes and £1m for the South West Energy Hub
  • Shepton Mallet has been selected as one of four 5G Pilots in the country
  • We are expecting to hear about the Nuclear Sector Deal in the next few weeks
  • Bids from our area have, or are due to be submitted to the Transforming Cities and Strength in Places Funds

The Delivery Plan will focus on a series of ‘opportunities’ as the framework achieving the Joint Committee’s aims. Our ‘transformational opportunities’ represent the biggest potential to improve productivity in the high value sectors that are distinctive to our area. These include digital, advanced engineering and healthy ageing. Large parts of our economy are also characterised by our ‘bedrock opportunities’ which include agriculture, food and drink, high value tourism and defence and it is important that we protect and develop these sectors.

The Delivery Plan will set out what’s needed to capitalise on these opportunities to ensure our area makes the best use of our economic strengths. We also need to focus on the enablers which are vital to underpinning improvements in our transformational and bedrock sectors.  These include construction, housing, energy and infrastructure. The Delivery Plan will identify the programmes and investments under these opportunities that we need across our region to achieve our long term goal – to double our economy and increase prosperity for all over the next 20 years. 

It will also form the basis of a Local Industrial Strategy, a concept introduced in the Government’s Industrial Strategy published last year. Developing a Local Industrial Strategy will help us to more clearly define what is genuinely distinctive about the Heart of the South West area and how we will play our part in boosting the UK’s economy over the longer term. It will also help to align our thinking with Government policy and with the national priorities identified in the Industrial Strategy.

Significant investment and activity is already underway across all of the opportunities identified above, supported by a mix of national and local funding. However, our Strategy is about working together more effectively by making the best use of all our assets and resources across the public and private sector, as well as making a stronger case to Government for additional support. Our Delivery Plan therefore needs to set out what we will do differently as a partnership, as well identifying the specific areas where Government can help us go further.

Peninsula Sub-National Transport Body

Work is underway to establish a Sub-National Transport Body (STB) for the South West Peninsula.  The Peninsula STB will cover Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay and hopefully Dorset in the near future.

The Peninsula STB will sit alongside the Western Gateway STB which will cover the remainder of the South West, including the Bristol area, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

Establishing the Peninsula STB will help our region to compete with those areas of the country that already have or are in the process of establishing STBs. The Government is keen to support these types of body to encourage areas to think more strategically about major transport networks and infrastructure.  The STB will focus on transformational and large scale transport projects which will support: economic growth across the Peninsula; the work of the Joint Committee and the delivery of the Productivity Strategy.

The aim is to establish the Shadow Peninsula Sub-National Transport Body in the Autumn of 2018 as an informal partnership, with plans to approach the Government to put it on to a statutory footing as soon as practicable.


Discussions with Government

The Partnership is continuing to contact Government Ministers and to meet with senior civil servants to share the progress we are making. We have received positive feedback so far, and Government departments have expressed their support in working with us to explore various issues such as housing, transport and skills. We also believe we are well-placed to develop a Local Industrial Strategy having recently signed off our Productivity Strategy.  We offer an ideal geography to trial new Government policies and initiatives because of our diverse economic base and urban-rural mix. We are progressing all of these ideas with Government as they will help us to achieve our ultimate goal.