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Heart of the South West Autumn Budget: A route-map to greater prosperity or survival at best?

Blog written by David Ralph, Chief Executive of the Heart of the South West LEP

The Autumn Budget has set out the Government’s plan for growth, with welcome funding and tax reliefs.

However, once again the South West has lost out to red wall voters, with an election likely next autumn. Much of the funding for marine, photonics, engineering, offshore wind and climate science was playing catch-up, and could have been awarded some time ago meaning they would already be boosting GDP and ensuring we can make the most of their economic potential. Instead we are playing catch-up, with the added challenges that higher inflation means that you get less bang for your buck than when similar funding was awarded to other areas.

Strategic transport again also fell to the wayside, with no certainty yet on Edingswell Station in Torquay, or the A303 at Stonehenge.

Our hospitality businesses will welcome the extension to the business rates discount, having struggled since the pandemic, but we also need to reduce the costs of doing business to help increase optimism.

The £4.5bn pledged to attract investment into aerospace, life sciences and green industries will be a welcome boost to our area’s world-class strategic manufacturing sectors but, again, why have we had to wait this long?

More specifically for LEPs, I’m pleased to see that Growth Hub funding has been confirmed for 2024/25, to continue providing our SMEs with access to finance and support programmes. Growth Hubs have been an important source of support for local businesses, and it’s good to see that our push for funding has been recognised.

Hopefully, we can move quickly to getting the Devolution Deal confirmed for Devon and Torbay, which will be an important part of the transition and future delivery post-LEPs. The statement also identified an additional Level 4 category of transition – which may well be relevant for a county Local Authority like Somerset.

I look forward to working with Local Authorities over the coming months to deliver an orderly transition, ensuring our area’s business voice is championed and continues to be meaningful, and services delivered. Whilst local government may in the future lead economic delivery, it is critical that local business leaders continue to help shape the communities and landscape in which they operate. It will be the private sector that delivers future prosperity. There were some positives to help facilitate that, but if UK PLC is to thrive, rather than survive, some of the intractable challenges of workforce and competitiveness are more pronounced than ever.


Comprised of business leaders from across our key sectors, the LEP Board oversees the programme of infrastructure, business support and skills projects being delivered by 2025.

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      David Ralph

      Chief Executive

      David Ralph started as Chief Executive of Heart of South West LEP at the beginning of June 2018. Previously, he had spent 5 years as CEO of the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire (D2N2) LEP from 2013 where he oversaw the development of the D2N2 Strategic Economic Plan and sector strategies, 3 Growth Deals with HM Government to deliver a £1billion capital investment programme, securing and implementing £200m ESIF programme, the Derby and Nottingham Enterprise Zone, the D2N2 Skills Deal and Time for Innovation programme, community fund and led the executive team to develop the HS2 East Midlands hub. He was also closely involved in the proposed North Midlands Devolution Deal and one of the key architects in establishing the Midlands Engine, chairing the officer steering group. Whilst in this role David was a NED of the Nottingham Enterprise Zone, and Marketing NG, the Outer Estates Foundation and a Governor of Nottingham College and on the advisory Board of Nottingham Business School.

      Before the East Midlands, David was CEO of the Have Gateway Partnership working closely with local stakeholders including the ports of Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich and BT Adadastral Park across Suffolk and Essex and prior to that was Chief Exec of the Barton Hill New Deal for Communities programme in Bristol and the Nelm Development Trust in Norwich.

      David is a keen sailor, walker and trail runner.