The Heart of the South West is primed with potential to help create the “global Britain” that the Chancellor referred to in the opening lines of his budget speech, when he confirmed the importance of investment in skills and infrastructure in raising productivity and reversing the downward trend.
However, the Heart of the South West LEP is disappointed not to be name checked in the speech or the budget statement, and that the focus is very much on specific cities with emphasis on those that have opted for an elected Mayor.
It’s our aim, along with our partners in business, the local authorities and the other south west LEPs, to demonstrate the immense contribution that can be delivered from our potentially thriving region.
The Great South West – which includes a variety of LEP areas that come together for mutually beneficial projects to work as a whole – can rival the economies of the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine. The Heart of the South West’s economy alone – covering Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay, is the size of Birmingham’s – and we need to drive this message home to the front benches of Westminster and show the country what returns are possible from our opportunities.
We look forward to next week’s announcement on the Industrial Strategy, when we hope to see some favourable acknowledgements to these opportunities. For example, the robust Nuclear South West strategy shows how the country can realise the £50bn worth of business in this sector in the south west.
Whilst there we were no specific commitments from the Chancellor for our area, it’s encouraging that there is an emphasis on skills, infrastructure and housing – all of which are LEP priorities for which we already have firm proposals at the ready. We will continue to bid for funding that comes out of these announcements, to add to our investment portfolio that is now worth £750 million.
Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, Steve Hindley said: “Whilst we’re disappointed that our area hasn’t been recognised in the same way as the industrial regions further north, we are by no means disheartened.
“We are passionate about our area; the Heart of the South West and the wider Great South West region, and we will continue to strive fervently to get our true potential recognised. We look forward to more tangible announcements that will help us achieve our goals in next week’s Industrial Strategy.
“Productivity is the key to increasing prosperity – in that we are in agreement with government, and it’s our job to deliver projects that will increase our productivity throughout the Heart of the South West. I urge all businesses and stakeholders, in fact anyone who lives or works in the area, to share their views on the Productivity Strategy that’s out for consultation.”
The Heart of the South West Productivity Strategy consultation period is open until 14 December. Businesses and individuals in the Heart of the South West are invited to provide their feedback and suggestions via www.torbay.gov.uk/devolution