Heart of the South West Devolution - Newsletter 17

Leaders for the Heart of the South West

February 2019

The Heart of the South West (HotSW) Joint Committee held its third meeting on Friday 25 January 2019. This briefing provides an outline of the issues discussed at the meeting and the ongoing work of the Partnership.

Influencing Government

The Committee continues to develop its role in influencing and working with Government and related agencies in key areas of interest to the local authorities and partners. Current topics are covered in detail in this newsletter but in summary relate to:

  • HotSW Local Industrial Strategy – where the Committee is working with the Local Enterprise Partnership to agree key transformational opportunities across the HotSW area with Government to improve productivity
  • Brexit – where the Committee continues to work with Government and partners to help prepare local businesses, local authorities and communities for the Brexit outcome and with a particular focus on a ‘no deal’ scenario
  • Housing – where our task force of elected members and officers are progressing discussions with Homes England to look at ways to accelerate housing growth as a key component which supports improvements to productivity.

Industrial Strategy

HotSW Local Industrial Strategy (LIS)

Work continues on the development of the HotSW Local Industrial Strategy. The HotSW’s priority inclusion in wave 2 of LIS development has given us a head start over other Local Enterprise Partnership areas, all of whom are required to develop a LIS. 

As we are further ahead of most areas in developing our evidence base (already used for the development of the Productivity Strategy), we intend to take advantage of this and have our LIS agreed with Government in early summer 2019, well ahead of our competing LEPs. To fit Government LIS policy, the HotSW LIS must have an industrial focus and contain transformational opportunities that will accelerate productivity growth.    

The focus, to date, has been on strengthening the existing evidence base – now complete – and then taking this information to identify the technologies, sectors, places and businesses most likely to make significant contributions. From this, it has been possible to identify the activities most likely to achieve the desired outcomes.

From this work the Committee has agreed to support the development of proposals in three core areas - identified as the ‘Dynamic Heart of the South West' - for special investment and most likely to be innovative, entrepreneurial, distinct (to the HotSW area), long-term and productive:

  1. Digital futures: big data, environmental and health technologies and services
  2. High-Tech engineering; advanced marine and aerospace manufacturing, photonics and defence
  3. Clean energy; technical development of nuclear and offshore renewables.

This work has now been detailed in a ‘command paper’ which was considered and supported by the LEP Board on 30 January. This paper and approach will be the basis for the development of the draft Local Industrial Strategy in the coming months. 

Housing workstream

The Joint Committee has established a Housing Task Force of Council leaders and officer representatives (and including Homes England) to develop a holistic approach to housing growth across the HotSW in consultation with Government and agencies such as Home England.   This will deliver our housing priority to support and stimulate growth within HotSW and add value to the delivery of Local Plans and Joint Local Plans.  

The work will overcome housing delivery challenges resulting from long-term under-investment in infrastructure so constraining the ability of the market to deliver growth.   

Working directly with Homes England we will develop bespoke housing delivery approaches recognising the diversity and distinctiveness of the area. We want ambitious, place-based projects and programmes which can be applied in all areas including smaller rural and coastal settlements.  

We will keep pressing the Government for essential improvements to infrastructure such as road and rail that need to accompany housing development if the full transformation is to be achieved. 


Brexit Risks and Opportunities Group

Our preparation for the impact of Brexit continues to ramp up as the date for leaving the EU approaches. The Brexit Risks and Opportunities Group, which advises the Joint Committee, is stepping up pressure on the Government to improve communication and share plans with local authorities for all possible scenarios to enable us to support our communities and businesses through this period of great uncertainty.  

The Committee has moved the Group onto an operational footing to support the work of the Local Resilience Forums. The focus at this time is on a 'no deal' scenario and on business continuity for local authority services and businesses. The work can, however, be adapted to any scenario.

The Group is developing ‘asks’ of Government for the transfer of new powers and funding to localities post-Brexit. 

  • Government officials have welcomed our work as best practice in bringing together local leadership.
  • We welcomed news that Phil Norrey, Chief Executive of Devon County Council, lead officer for the Committee on Brexit preparation, is one of nine Regional chief executives asked by Government to join a Chief Officer-led information sharing network.
  • The Group continues to work with Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly on issues of mutual interest and concern.