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The Board Minutes
Dates of Future Meetings
- 14 March 2017
- 23 May 2017
- 18 July 2017
- 19 September 2017
- 21 November 2017
2017 Board Meetings
2016 Board Meetings
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John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council, presented on the progress and opportunities of the Devolution process, and the board confirmed their continued support for beginning negotiations with government on this matter. Devolution is an important issue for our area and the Local Authorities are leading on this work, with support from the LEP, its private sector board members and other partners.
Over the coming months the LEP will be leading on the development of a Productivity Plan for the HotSW area, and this work will contribute and align to the ongoing work around Devolution.
The continued importance of cross-LEP working was reiterated by the board, for example the good work that south west LEPs have been doing around the energy and transport agendas, and in particular the significant progress with our support for industrial clusters across the region, including Nuclear South West; iAero (regional aerospace partnership) and South Coast Marine.
The other major item for discussion was the next round of Growth Deal funding. Government has made available a further £1.8bn of funding for LEPs to bid for. The process will be highly competitive, even more so than in previous rounds, and so the Board discussed how we ought to approach our bid, agreeing to focus on strongly on raising productivity. We will be required to bid for a specific amount of money for our area, and so our three Leadership Groups and the Local Transport Board have been gathering in information about projects requiring funding, to inform our bid. Our long pipeline of projects seeking investment will be used in the bid, to demonstrate Ato Government that we have no shortage of investment opportunities in the Heart of the South West. It is important to remind those who may have a project, but haven’t managed to submit it to the leadership groups over the past few months: Don’t worry, we will be re-opening our pipeline to new projects in the Autumn, when we anticipate we will find out how much funding we have been awarded..
The board welcomed HotSW being selected as one of the first areas in the UK to be part of the Science and Innovation Audit, as part of consortium representing South West England and part of South Wales, alongside our region’s universities. This will help focus the government on HotSW’s needs and opportunities for growth in the research-intensive sectors of our economy.
The complexity of the present situation regarding the ESIF programmes was explained. This programme is not managed by the LEP but by Government Departments (DCLG, DWP and Defra) with whom the LEP works closely to try and get the best outcome it can for the area. In total, over £40m of calls have been announced in HotSW and the LEP is looking forward to the first funding agreements being signed off by Government Departments.
The board noted the importance of the ESIF strategy in the delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan and is committed to maximising awareness, take-up and impact of ESIF funds in the Heart of the South West.
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Following recent media speculation around Hinkley Point C, members of the Board were keen that the LEP emphasises the importance of Hinkley to the national energy security of the future and agreed to step up communications with the major influencers.
The board is agreed that the nuclear sector in the HotSW area is a LEP priority and is wider than Hinkley and EDF alone, and these messages are to be conveyed through supply chain activity and the development of the Nuclear South West cluster.
The prospected potential of Hinkley Point C and the plans for the Nuclear South West Cluster legacy were outlined in a presentation to be published soon.
The board also agreed that another key issue to campaign for is the improved connectivity for the Heart of the South West in terms of road, rail, broadband and the capacity of the electricity grid.
The LEP will continue to support the Peninsula Rail Task Force in its activity to achieve investment in transport infrastructure projects and will work with utility and communications providers to improve connectivity in energy and internet speeds.
Issues concerning the timings of opt-in arrangements and revised levels of funding for the European Structural Investment Fund have reached a critical point affecting the LEP’s ability to deliver its ESIF strategy and the wider Strategic Economic Plan. Therefore the board agreed to work closely with the LEP Leadership groups to form an action plan to present to the Department of Work and Pensions to provide solutions to the current situation and improve governance to prevent such issues arising again.
The prospect of a “Growth Deal 3” being announced was discussed, and since the meeting there have been further announcements, outlined in more detail in the March newsletter.
Members of the board expressed the need for truly transformational projects with a “bottom up meets top down” approach combining HotSW wide strategy with local expertise.
A summary of the current Devolution process concluded that detail and justification to underpin the bid was still needed and some expressed the view that further business consultation was still required.
Decisions on what form of governance a HotSW Devolution Deal would take are still up for discussion and it is speculated that a Mayoral system may leverage extra funding as it appears to be the government’s preferred model.
The board was informed that Affordable Housing is included within the themes of Devolution following the report on Housing that was presented to the November Board meeting. The latest on Devolution in the Heart of the South West, including the prospectus, is available here
Declarations of interest:
Serco via Peninsula Enterprise delivering Growth Hub “Service for All” and is providing the Get Up To Speed service for Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS). Serco has an interest in some of the current and future ESIF calls.
Pluss organisation has an interest in Big Lottery Funding and future ESIF funding.
Devon Community Foundation is involved in a number of partnership bids for Big Lottery Funding and future ESIF funding.
Yeovil College has an interest in Growth Deal, HPTA bid and interest in the Career College.
Agusta Westland has an interest in future ERDF funding.
Torbay Council has an interest in ERDF Business support programmes.
Midas is bidding for work at South Yard in Plymouth (which is funded by the LEP) but not personally involved.
A board member’s brother is on the board of the National Infrastructure Commission.
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The LEP Finance and resources committee will report to the board on the potential use of Growing Places Funds to attract new investment, and will consider a proposal from the board to fund further research to support the economic case for the Peninsula Rail Task Force campaigns.
The board discussed the implications on the LEP had the funding for Growth Deal 2 not been confirmed, and agreed in all events to increase the momentum in engaging local MPs to use their influence in government to focus on the Heart of the South West. The LEP is working to align the profiling of expenditure on Growth Deal projects.
The board was briefed on the issue that the Department of Work and Pensions’ inflexibility surrounding the details of ESIF funding and the LEP continues to seek influence.
Patrick Flaherty, Chief Executive of Somerset County Council, outlined the current proposal and timelines for a Devolution Deal and the outstanding issues around governance. Feedback from business indicates that they are not very concerned about governance but are in favour of regional decision making, more funding for skills and have a desire to push a vision for growth. Board members believe that the deal needs to ask for something bold, ambitious and innovative, and that LEP and Business involvement needs to be ramped up to ensure the final document portrays a passion for innovation and transformation.
Increased pressure on government is taking place to mitigate the delays, bureaucracy and revised funding allocations and outputs within the ESIF strategy.
Findings of the LEP Annual Review were outlined, which will shape the business plan, measuring performance against the Strategic Economic Plan, resulting in a single improvement plan to be reviewed by the Finance and Resources group
The Place Leadership group chair gave a presentation on the recent report from the Housing Task and Finish Group which aims to address barriers and solutions to the provision of housing. The board discussed the ideas presented in the report and its implications on partner funding and the areas’ Local Plans’.
It was noted that much of this paper is relevant to Devolution in terms of offering a local solution, and it was suggested that rural villages and small towns had a role to play in addressing housing shortages which would also benefit the viability of small communities.
In conclusion the Chair deferred the paper for further work and discussion with Local Authority planning managers and input from local house builders prior to the housing agenda being incorporated into the Devolution Deal.
The roles of the Leadership Groups and their terms of reference are being explored with a view to improving the synergy and lines of communication and decision making throughout the LEP and its partners.
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HotSW LEP formally welcomed its two newly appointed non-executive directors at its September Board meeting on Wednesday 16 September: Martha Wilkinson and Martin Brown. The two new members were recruited as part of a HotSW wide advertisement asking for a strong entrepreneurial background, with the skills to help take forward the LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan.
Martha Wilkinson and Martin Brown bring new and diverse experience to the LEP Board; Martha is Chief Executive of Devon Community Foundation, which tackles disadvantage and deprivation across the HotSW area; and Martin has a background in software and high-technology businesses at a senior level.
Other news from the Board includes their desire to increase momentum to keep up the pressure on the Government and the Department of Business Innovation and Skills to progress with Growth Deal funding and commit to investment in the HotSW area, including the key actions on connectivity already articulated through the Peninsula Rail Task Force. HotSW LEP awaits the decision on its submission for a further cross-LEP Enterprise Zone, building on the recently announced Zone in Plymouth, which the board gave its support to.
The Devolution Statement of Intent which was sent to government last month, and signed by all HotSW LEP local authority partners, was discussed at length and hailed as the start of a long journey towards increased local powers, rather than a blueprint for Devolution at this stage. The partners will work together with a view to develop the area’s firm proposal, and the LEP will play an active role in helping to develop this.
A clear direction from the Board is for the LEP to gather a strong evidence base of business needs and skills and labour requirements from the private sector; all LEP business directors would be actively involved and the LEP Board members in the further and higher education sectors offered to help build the links between business and education and training providers.
The July Board discussed the government’s plans for devolution and agreed that the LEP would support the local authorities in such capacity that they decide upon to progress this agenda and maximise any increased opportunities for funding that may be presented. Particular emphasis came from the private sector to continue to support the area to attract investment, and the business board members were all keen to continue helping local authorities.
A range of future funding opportunities were discussed and the board members reviewed a number of our strategic priorities. The board also discussed enhancing productivity and access to finance to unlock barriers; Local Innovation Audits and a possible approach to address a projected labour shortage by helping people get off health related benefits.
HotSW Inward Investment manager presented the results of the City Deal funded Investor Growth and Soft Landings packages which, respectively, secured 85 high value jobs and £3m investment; and 13 foreign direct investments creating 340 new jobs and safeguarding 338. The Board supported the proposal to seek extra resources now that City Deal funding has ended, to continue similar projects to attract inward and local investment into the area.. The board offered to enhance their role as ambassadors for the area and asked for increased levels of information and support in doing so.
The Enterprise Zone presentation from the Business and Place Leadership Groups was well received and the board will consider the benefits of potential zones and following advice from BIS will put forward a proposal in addition to our existing zone in Plymouth South Yard.
A letter of support for the extension of Heathrow Airport is to be sent from the Board, with additional asks for related connectivity to the south west.
The Board were updated that now that the new government has been formed, the LEP is stepping up its activity to secure the necessary support for projects in the HotSW area that directly align with the government’s aims to increase the productivity of UK plc. This is the time to deliver transformational growth and it’s the task of the LEP, with our key partners, to ensure the HotSW voice is heard.
Management team and leadership groups were asked to define their achievements to the strategy by showing outputs against the Strategic Priorities in a Nutshell, which is the summary of the aims of the Heart of the South West Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) and can be viewed here. This will help to illustrate the success of the achievements and give confidence to partners that HotSW LEP is on track for delivery.
The Board welcomed the paper tabled by the CBI in its asks to government, which aligns to much of the SEP in its aims to create the right conditions to enable growth.
At the time of the meeting there were two vacancies for non-executive board members, and applications are currently being assessed. Vaughan Lindsey, who has left the Board to take up a position in London, was thanked for his contribution to HotSW LEP since its inception.