I hope you, your families, and colleagues are keeping well at these challenging times and I hope some of you are getting a break. I’ve certainly found the last few weeks hard going.
As the country moves cautiously forwards it remains important that here in the Heart of the South West we highlight our particular challenges and proposed solutions to Government to enable us to mitigate the detrimental impacts as much as possible and start to build back better and stronger. We do this in a number of ways – recently our HotSW LEP recovery group agreed the key messages to highlight to our MPs, and we’ve participated in a number of Ministerial briefings.
Last week the Government confirmed that twelve ‘shovel-ready’ projects submitted for our £35.4m Getting Building Fund allocation were approved; this will deliver circa 2400 jobs and £17m private sector funding.
HotSW Key Messages – Response to Covid-19 Economic Challenges
The HotSW LEP Covid-19 Recovery Task Group met to review the local response to the economic challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It remains important to remind people that whilst the incidence of the disease remains low across the HotSW area, the economic implications are stark. Data over the past few weeks gives us increased certainty about our forecasted impact; which whilst grave; does mean that we can plan better for recovery. The Bank of England report this week was in my view more optimistic both in terms of impact and future recovery.
In our briefing to MPs we have particularly highlighted:
The ending of self-employment support and the changes to furlough – where the HotSW area has a disproportionate number of impacted individuals – both of which may well lead to a spike in business closures, redundancies etc. Similarly, in the medium term the completion of loan and VAT repayment holidays in the spring are increasingly coming into focus; as are the implications of the completion the transition period to leave the EU at the end of the year.
Impact Data and Forecasting – the Task Group reviewed the latest data from Oxford Economics forecasts on the economic impact. This data suggests that our forecasting is close to what is happening on the ground (actual slightly worse than base-line case – e.g. more u-shaped than v-shaped). Specifically universal credit claimant count – whilst it varies in different places across the area – is above average; therefore re-enforcing the need for levelling-up. Similarly, the close link with impact on areas already suffering significant deprivation is clear, as well as the impact on the poorest earning households.
Strategic Infrastructure – we have recently written to MPs expressing our concerns that decisions on the A303 Development Control Orders have been deferred again. We have suggested it may be appropriate to ask DfT/Highways England to attend the next Great South West APPG to give reassurance that delivery can be brought back on track. Unfortunately, particularly with regard to the Sparkford to Ilchester improvements which broadly is a fairly simple scheme, we think the issues were highly foreseeable. Similarly, we are still to hear about the Government’s Outside/In plans for digital infrastructure which is fundamental to being able to build back better.
Kickstart Funding – we also wrote to MPs regarding the unacceptable allocation of Kickstart funding for HotSW tourism businesses. The methodology adopted by MHCLG disproportionately impacts larger LEPs and runs a significant reputation risk of not being able to respond remotely to local needs. We have raised this directly with officials who seem unwilling to recognise the scale of tourism businesses across the HotSW area.
Supporting and Strengthening Local Institutions – the LEP recognises that the impact and loss of income on Local Authorities, colleges, the cultural sector, universities etc. as well as business. We do recognise the many Government interventions to ameliorate this, but weak institutions will make recovery more difficult. Specifically:
- The Government has indicated that it is going to recover surplus business support grants distributed by Local Authorities. Whilst we have some of lowest levels of surplus (about 10%) there remain many businesses across HotSW that have not been able to access this support and we would urge that these grants continue but with greater local discretion regarding eligibility.
- We have previously identified that some £10m of Department for Work and Pensions European Social Fund (skills support programmes) have been approved but remain to be contracted. Whilst we have received some assurances that these are in hand, they remain outstanding and would help cashflow at some of our FE colleges.
- Town Deals and High Street Funding – the LEP is working closely with our 3 Town Deals and 7 High Street programmes. Extending this programme is likely to be a key component of the levelling-up agenda and supporting our hardest-hit areas. It will be important that Government recognises the significant impacts on hard-hit coastal and rural towns in developing its future programme.
Getting Building Fund –12 capital projects are to be funded across the HotSW area to support the £35.4m Getting Building Fund. We submitted a £121m long list of local economic stimulus projects with methodology to prioritise projects. As part of our recovery plan we are looking further at our ‘shovel-ready pipeline’ based on the themes Skills for the Future; Build Back Better and Hardest Hit Places and sectors. Should a further stimulus package emerge through CSR in the Autumn, we will be ready to deliver.
Getting Building Fund projects announced for Heart of the South West
HotSW LEP received £35.4m from the national pot of £900m from the Getting Building Fund and has chosen a final list of ‘shovel-ready’ projects from its bid. Projects will now complete a business case by the end of August demonstrating job creation and that spending will be complete by March 2022.
The funding is allocated under three headings: Work Hubs and Fit out (£8.7m); Retrofit and Low Carbon (£5.3m) and Individual Projects (£21.4m). The projects progressing to business case submission, which will support employment, regeneration, skills, innovation and clean energy, are:
- Torquay Gateway (£2m)
- Concourse Phase 2, Brunel Plaza, Plymouth (£4.17m)
- Firepool and Taunton Station Access (£0.4m)
- Ilfracombe Watersports Centre (£1.5m)
- Burrows Centre, Torridge (£0.4m)
- Exeter Bus Station (£0.8m)
- Enhancement of Future Skills Centre at Exeter Airport (£1m)
- Taunton Digital Innovation Centre (£5.5m)
- Welding Centres of Excellence, Plymouth (£0.35m)
- Exeter Science Park Grow-out Building (£5m)
- Green Housing and Business Programme (£5.3m)
- Work Hubs and Fit-out project (£8.7m)
Projects were selected from a call through Local Authority partners to submit quality assured, ‘shovel-ready’ schemes which would support recovery across the Heart of the South West. The selection considered areas hit hardest by Covid-19, and projects which could complete within the timescales for the funding. The final list was agreed with Government.
Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This economic stimulus will help our plans to restart, revitalise and grow our economy. Each of the projects will support growth of the local economy and deliver the LEP’s aims. We welcome the Getting Building Fund to start new projects and accelerate projects across the Heart of the South West.
“We recognise that there are still many other important projects that we identified in our area that currently remain unfunded. We will continue to work with Government to secure future funding to further invest in our recovery pipeline.”
Annual Report 2019/20
The HotSW LEP Annual Report for 2019/20 has been published.
We’re on track to deliver our impacts by 2025 and made significant progress in the financial year.
The LEP’s foundations for creating the conditions for growth have mitigated some of the economic impacts of the lockdown, which took place towards the end of this reporting period; in that we were able to quickly identify measures to help businesses in the short term and in our Route Map to Recovery plan to build back better.
The HotSW LEP AGM is scheduled to take place on 18 September, more details will be announced in our Latest Newsfeed. Stakeholders interested in attending virtually are asked to hold this diary date. The Annual report and a short video showcasing our achievements and case studies can be viewed on our website.
North Devon Enterprise Centre progressing with £2.15m Growth Deal funding
he North Devon Enterprise Centre is starting to take shape as construction work on the site continues apace.
With good progress being made, the main building work remains on target to be completed by the end of this year.
The Enterprise Centre is being developed at Devon County Council’s Business Park development at Roundswell, near Barnstaple, to provide accommodation for dynamic, high growth, and start-up businesses.
The building has been designed to be environmentally sustainable and includes a series of measures to ensure the building achieves BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) Excellent status. Overall reductions of 25% have been achieved on carbon emissions through energy saving measures such as energy efficient lighting, use of natural daylight and enhanced thermal insulation materials.
Once construction has been completed, it is hoped that the environmental and carbon reduction ethos will be adopted by the innovative businesses that the Enterprise Centre will support from early next year.
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “It’s great to see this project really coming together and everyone can see the excellent progress being made. The Enterprise Centre is one of many projects that will be playing an important part in ensuring that our local economy emerges stronger from the coronavirus pandemic. We all know the next couple of years are going to be challenging but it’s Team Devon’s ambition for our local economy to be more inclusive and sustainable – and the Enterprise Centre fits perfectly in that ambition.”
Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “With £2.15 million funding from our Growth Deal, I’m pleased to see this project progressing well as part of our portfolio of 69 schemes across the whole of the Heart of the South West that will generate growth, jobs and skills. As we come out of lockdown, new facilities for businesses such as the North Devon Enterprise Centre play an important role in the recovery of our region as we move towards a cleaner, greener economy.”
Councillor Frank Biederman, Devon County Councillor for Fremington Rural, said: “It’s fantastic to see this project moving forward and the building now taking shape, this clearly is going to be such an important asset to support business start-ups here in Northern Devon. It looks like young people are going to find it toughest to get on the job market post Covid, so giving them the opportunity to be entrepreneurs and having the wrap around support is going to be a fantastic opportunity for those that are lucky enough to get a space. Its timing could not be better. I wish to thank all our officers involved in the bidding, planning and design of this project.”
The centre has been designed to accommodate small and medium size businesses in individual offices, with common areas and an overall environment that will encourage collaboration, innovation and an enjoyable workspace.
The scheme has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and Devon County Council.
Contractor ISG is developing the site on behalf of Devon County Council.
For more information about the Enterprise Centre or to register your interest, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Somerset Rivers Authority 2019-20 Annual Report
The Somerset Rivers Authority Annual Report 2019-20 has just been published – it showcases progress in reducing flood risks across Somerset including projects backed by HotSW LEP’s £13m Growth Deal Funding:
- Pioneer dredging done between Stathe and Burrowbridge, to help reduce flood risks across a large part of the Somerset Levels and Moors (see page 14 of the long report).
- A trial of innovative water injection dredging techniques for possible use between Northmoor and the M5 (page 15).
- Progress with plans for increasing the capacity of key parts of the River Sowy and King’s Sedgemoor Drain through work in these rivers’ channels and on their banks (pages 16-17), part of a programme to reduce across 150 square miles.
- Submission of application for the Transport and Works Act Order required to build the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier, which will protect at least 11,300 homes and 1,500 businesses. £2million of Growth Deal funding contributed by HotSW LEP through the Somerset River Authority (SRA) has helped to significantly accelerate this major project, which is led by the Environment Agency and Sedgemoor District Council. (pages 20-22).
- Taunton Strategic Flood Alleviation Improvements Scheme. In 2016-17 this had some Growth Deal funding. This scheme is currently focusing on three local interventions which between them will benefit more than 1,414 homes, businesses and important local facilities such as the district council offices and police station, BT exchange and French Weir surgery.
- A contribution of £100,000 of Growth Deal funding via the SRA is helping Wessex Water with a £1.8million scheme in Highbridge, installing a new surface water pumping station and new pipework. This will help to protect local properties from unpleasant sewer flooding (page 25).
- HotSW LEP financing is covered on page 67.
- Of the nearly £2.8million spent by the SRA in 2019-20, £1.304 million was Growth Deal funding from the LEP.
Dozens of places across Somerset have benefitted from extra flood protection and resilience works funded by the SRA. In 2019-20, nearly £2.8million was spent on actions designed to protect people, properties, businesses and roads, while also enhancing local environments.
Everybody in Somerset is affected directly or indirectly by issues with flooding, so the SRA invests in a wide range of actions countywide to reduce flood risks and increase local resilience when floods do occur. All works are additional to those carried out by other Flood Risk Management Authorities in Somerset.
South West Creative Technology Network
We are aiming to fund ideas for prototypes in the field of Data that are brave and distinctive, that open up the field to new voices and challenge the status quo.
We are interested in collaborative working practices, and in alternative business models. We want to grow creative businesses across the South West.
We anticipate awarding grants of between £10k and £40k and would encourage applications of all sizes between these limits. Prototyping will run from December 2020 for three months with a SWCTN Data Showcase between March – June 2021. We expect prototype teams to commit to the programme during this period.
For more information see the attached leaflet, or visit at www.SWCTN.org.uk
If you would like to discuss this call further please contact Tom Edie or Mike Philips at SWCTN@plymouth.ac.uk
Closing date for applications is 5pm Monday 7th September 2020
Devon and Plymouth Chamber of Commerce Offer
Responding to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, Devon and Plymouth Chamber of Commerce is inviting businesses to become members for three months, fully funded.
This membership entitles businesses to the following, at no charge, for three months:
- Discounted member rates for Chamber events and networking
- Referral to wider business support through strategic partners
- Free international trade and export advice
- Access to Chamber social media platforms
- Use of digital Chamber logo for emails and website
- Personal account management by Membership Executive
- Own member area on DPCC website
- Receive quarterly Chamber Profile magazine
- Receive weekly Chamber Bytes newsletter
- Access to the Chamber’s Small Business Toolkit
- Be part of the city, county and region’s lobbying voice
- Participate in BCC quarterly economic survey (QES)
- Invitation to attend Chamber Connect
Interested businesses are asked to fill out the short form via this link and wait for the Chamber to get in touch:
Construction Talent Retention Scheme Launched by Construction and Leadership Council
A new scheme has been launched to enable skilled construction workers to showcase their experience and expertise to secure employment, and for businesses in the industry to find the talent they need.
Potential candidates can showcase their skills, talent, expertise, and experience to more than 400 employers in the construction industry, they can register their details and upload CVs.
Employers can register their interest in attracting people with the skills, talent, and experience they need. Help will be given throughout the process, and when vetting is complete, employers will be able to browse candidates and directly upload roles onto the site.
The Construction Leadership Council’s Talent Retention Scheme (CLC TRS) is an independent employer-led programme, to supporting the attraction, development, and retention of people and skills in UK construction, manufacturing, engineering, and technology.