Latest round-up from David Ralph, HotSW LEP CEO

We’ll reach big milestones this year at the LEP. We’re on the verge of launching our Local Industrial Strategy – known as the LIS – and we’re on target for delivering our Growth Deal projects in the timeframe set by Government.

The LIS has been finalised from our end and is awaiting sign-off from Government, and we’ve been advised that the Minister responsible in BEIS would like to see it signed off soon. We’ll announce and publish it as soon as we have the go-ahead, so keep an eye on our channels.

We’ve already published our proposition for the Heart of the South West – Rebalancing the UK’s economy – which headlines our main strategic and funding asks now that we’ve left the EU. We’ve gained support from our MPs to drive the message home to Westminster colleagues about the economic opportunities in our area. We’re hoping that changes in the Cabinet re-shuffle bring renewed opportunities for our area and the wider Great South West region.

The LEP’s operations are widening out with increased activity carried out by Local Authority employees under new partnerships. The Skills Advisory Panel continues to go from strength to strength and we’re developing a new user-friendly skills and careers website that will collate all of the information and opportunities in the HotSW area that are available to help people improve their careers and productivity.

Our Growth Hub, which has been operating for nearly four years and has supported some 7000 businesses, is being transferred “in-house” this month allowing it greater agility to work with the rest of the LEP team. We’re not changing the established branding, and to the Growth Hub’s customer base there will be seemingly no change. We look forward to welcoming the Growth Hub team into the LEP.

I am delighted that Carla Modley has joined the LEP as Inward Investment Manager. Her primary role is to launch and project manage the ERDF funded Inward Investment Support Package, liaising with DIT and progressing priority inward investment activity with local stakeholders. Carla joins us from Sedgemoor District Council and has worked with the LEP previously in connection with our Enterprise Zones.

A great deal has been happening with the Great South West recently. The Great South West Prospectus has been published and sent to all of the region’s MPs as well as being presented to the Minister for Local Growth, Rt Hon Jake Berry.

Earlier this month we wrote to the Chancellor asking for £2m seed funding to formally set up the governance of the Great South West Partnership, and the Great South West APPG MPs also wrote with the same request.

The Western Morning News has relaunched their #BacktheSouthWest campaign as #BackTheGreatSouthWest. The free media coverage and private sector backing is good news for us partners in consortium; it will help raise its profile and create momentum to gain Government backing.

The Great South West Prospectus will be formally launched in the region at a partnership event coinciding with the South West Business Council’s quarterly conference on 6 March at Exeter Racecourse. In light of the announcement on HS2 it’s essential that we work as a collective partnership to ensure our region doesn’t get left behind.

In other news – a £4m call has gone out to improve Digital Connectivity particularly in hard to reach areas. This is an important step in improving both mobile and broadband connectivity and take-up in areas currently poorly served. This will help raise productivity to the full potential aimed for in the LIS.

Our Growth Deal programme is progressing well and is on target for delivery within the timescale set by Government. We’ve launched a new skills survey to help us assess the skills needs of SMEs in order to shape policy and delivery around need. We’ve an update from our Digital Skills Partnership and news about the new Tech Tasters workshops. We’ve gone into partnership with the Devon Chamber of Commerce to deliver an enhanced series of business events. The HotSW Careers Hub has news about its Cornerstone Employers programme that helps young people prepare for and feel inspired by the world of work. Our latest Quarterly Business Bulletin has been published which gives interesting insight into our economy, and we were pleased to see that two HotSW towns and two districts were successful in bids for garden community and neighbourhood planning grants from Government.