HotSW LEP Newsletter | September 2020

As we work towards our Recovery Plan to be published this autumn, we must take into account the changing landscape of a second wave of COVID-19 infections and the inevitable reversal of some of our progress to re-start the economy.

Everybody’s compliance to the new rules will help avoid further lockdown measures and mitigate further impact on our already hard-hit economy. We have a wealth of resources from our Growth Hub on how to operate safely, including the nationally-acclaimed Better Business for All COVID Toolkit; details are below.

Last week the Chancellor announced revised support for businesses and individuals now that the furlough scheme is coming to an end. The Winter Economy Plan has commitments to a new Job Support Scheme; Jobs Retention Bonus; Self Employed Grant extension; changes to the Government-backed loan schemes bringing the closing dates together on 30 November, offering extended repayment periods of up to 10 years and possible payment holidays all in preparation for a new loan scheme in 2021; flexibility on deferred tax; and an extension to March 21 for the 5% VAT rate for Hospitality and Tourism businesses – particularly relevant for our area. He said he was “cautiously optimistic” about recovery, but this area is particularly fragile.

Whilst the benefits payable through the Jobs Support Scheme are helpful, the scheme is complex for employers and take-up is going to depend on the calculations of businesses on its affordability and overall demand for products and services in the first place.

There’s more help for the Tourism sector through the recently announced Destination Management Organisation Emergency Financial Assistance Fund and we’ll be working with our partners to get our fair share of the funding for our area.

We heard yesterday from the Prime Minister on the Lifetime Skills Guarantee including free college courses and support for our area as a retraining Pilot area. Skills for the Future is an important theme in our emerging Recovery Plan and this week we launched our new Skills Launchpad website for employees, potential employees, and those seeking training and careers advice across the HotSW area.

Whilst we welcome the interventions to support businesses and individuals, evidence from leading economic research suggests that this area is, and will continue to be, disproportionately affected.

HotSW has responded directly to the Chancellor’s consultation on the Comprehensive Spending Review, including: Local decision-making on innovation and growth and support for Enterprise Zones and a Freeport; more support for business growth; enabling areas to develop local talent through skills funding and commitment to the Skills Advisory Panel, Careers Hub and Digital Skills Partnership; supporting levelling-up with locally-led delivery through a UK Shared Prosperity Fund; recognising local dimensions on the EU exit such as food and farming, ports and international trade; and support for the hardest-hit sectors. Some of these issues are addressed in the latest announcements from Government, which shows we’re being listened to, but there is much more to do.

The wider context of these asks and our ambition to Build Back Better will be announced shortly by the publishing of a set of documents that include:

The Local Industrial Strategy – The LIS will be published next month following the Heart of the South West Joint Committee – we’re seeking clarification from Government as to how England’s LISs now fit into this Parliament’s agenda. We believe that ours is extremely relevant and useful so we will publish it anyway and pursue its economic ambitions for clean and inclusive growth.

Building Back Better – This document is in consultation with partners at the moment – highlighting the key transformational opportunities the LEP will sponsor as part of the Heart of the South West’s emerging Covid-19 Recovery Plan – which is due to be published this autumn.

Hardest-hit sector statements – responding directly to those sectors hardest hit by the economic impact of pandemic: Nuclear, Marine, Aerospace and Aviation, High Streets, Culture, Construction, Tourism and Manufacturing.

Finally, we’re recruiting four Non- Executive Directors for the Board to help steer the LEP’s strategies and strengthen the LEP’s role as the main thought-leader influencing economic development in the HotSW area, and deliver the area’s Recovery Plan.

Details and a recruitment pack are available here: Non-Executive Board Directors and partners are asked to share this post with their associates to ensure we get a broad range of applicants.

LEP AGM – 18th September

The Heart of the South West LEP AGM was held this month by the Chair and selected Board Members at Exeter Science Park and 66 virtual attendees, to report on the LEP’s achievements of 2019/20 and the impact on the economy over the last six years.

Chair Karl Tucker summarised the LEP’s progress on its investment programme of infrastructure, business support and skills projects; and sends a strong message to Government to back the Great South West as part of its much publicised levelling up agenda.

Karl also thanked the previous chair, Steve Hindley, for his six years of dedicated service, as well as the retiring board members Martha Wilkinson and Steve Smith. New Board member, Professor Lisa Roberts – Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of Exeter University – was welcomed, and a recruitment process is announced for the appointment of four new board members, with a closing deadline of 14 October.

The meeting heard how the LEP remains on course for delivery of its investment programme which by 2025 will directly create circa 23,000 new jobs, 19,000 new homes, train 58,000 people and support 31,000 businesses.

Also, headlines were presented on the economic climate of the Heart of the South West and the LEP’s impact on the wider community since 2014 in terms of employment, productivity, infrastructure  and wages, which include:

  • The Heart of the South West has a £35 billion economy – as big as Birmingham or Liverpool – a population of 1.7m and 72,000 businesses.
  • It has experienced historic low levels of productivity with a relatively high employment rate, but with higher than average house prices.
  • Since 2014 employment has risen by 5.6% compared with the national rise of 6.5%; productivity has risen by 12.6% – higher than the national rate of 9.8% – which goes some way towards closing the gap but there is still much to do.
  • Average earnings per week have risen by 12.2% compared with 12.8% nationally. Circa 32,000 new homes have been built, and lower-paid wage growth has been better than average wage growth, meaning we are progressing towards more inclusive growth.
  • However business growth is still around 10% behind the UK average and as this is one of the country’s hardest-hit places due to its dependence on sectors most affected by lockdown, the LEP’s Recovery Plan will focus on key opportunity sectors and skills for the future in order to build back better.

Consistent data analysis from a number of business representative organisation, the Office of National Statistics, Oxford Innovation and the Bank of England has shown that whilst the incidence rate of the COVID-19 across our area to date has been low, the economic impact has been high and far-reaching compared to other regions.

Full details of this analysis can be seen at the latest Quarterly Business Bulletin and these findings were central to the chair’s speech and the LEP’s ambitions going forward.

LEP Chair Karl Tucker said: “We’re very proud of our achievements and this year has inevitably thrown an additional challenge to mitigate the effects of the lockdown and uncertainty around EU Exit; so with renewed impetus, we aim to build back better with clean and inclusive growth.

“We strongly urge the Government to commit to its levelling-up agenda and reverse the decades of under-investment in this region by spreading opportunities more evenly across the country; not just in metropolitan areas in the North and Midlands.

“In order to achieve our goals we need a high calibre board representing the diversity of our sectors, so I encourage business leaders in the Heart of the South West area to consider applying for our vacant positions on the Board, and join us on our mission to raise productivity and prosperity for all.”

All of the papers for the AGM can be seen at the website, including the full Impact Report, the 2019/20 Annual Report, finance reports, previous minutes, Q & As, the Chair’s speech and a short video animating some of the LEP’s projects.

Prospective candidates for the positions of Non-Executive Directors for the LEP Board can apply at the HotSW LEP website at: heartofswlep.co.uk/news/hotsw-lep-seeks-four-non-executive-board-directors/ before 5pm on 14 October.

Heart of the South West Skills Launchpad website 

We’re excited to announce that the new Heart of the South West Skills Launchpad website is now live.

Skills Launchpad can help people find information about skills, careers, training and jobs in Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay.

It’s the skills and employment hub for the Heart of the South West for those seeking employment, a career change or careers advice; for employers wishing to upskill their staff; and for young people and their parents/carers, and for schools wanting information on careers advice.

Skills Launchpad encompasses the Heart of the South West Careers Hub and Digital Skills Partnership.

We will be fully launching the site the week commencing 12 October 2020.

Before that date, if you have any additions to the site, or news and events that you would like to promote, please email skillslaunchpad@devon.gov.uk

Digital Skills Partnership Update

The latest Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter rounds up the latest initiatives from our successful DSP.

Since the newsletter was published, new dates were added for the popular free courses Bounce Back Digital and the DSP continues to bid for more funding to offer even more help for people and businesses raise their digital skills, which is ever more important in the wake of the impacts of COVID-19.

To continue this momentum, HotSW DSP is recruiting maternity cover for a Project Manager – Digital Futures Sector Lead

The salary is £37,890 – £41,881 and the closing date for applications is 8 October. Full details and an online application are at the above link.

Growth Hub Update

The latest Growth Hub Newsletter was published earlier this month, and all of the latest business support information, including the latest from Government, is available at the Growth Hub website and by following @GrowthHubHotSW.

Update from the Kickstart Grant Team

A deadline of 26 October has been set by which all businesses will hear back about their application results. The Kickstart Grant Scheme has attracted over 1000 applicants and the Kickstart Grant Team is working through these applications. Businesses are asked to wait until after this date before following up on their application to enable the grants to be processed as efficiently as possible. If you have not heard by 26 October, please email: Support.bsi@devon.gov.uk

Scale Up Survey

The ScaleUp Institute’s 2020 Scaleup Survey is the UK’s largest survey of scaleup and growing companies. During these challenging times please use this important opportunity to make your views and needs known. It’s even easy to do on your phone!

The Scaleup Survey is now in its seventh year. Its influence and importance has grown rapidly as it focuses attention on what growing firms most value and need.

The survey takes about 15-20 minutes to complete, and the deadline is 5 October 2020.

Better Business for All

Better Business for All (BBfA) is a local partnership between businesses, business support and regulators across Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay to promote local economic prosperity, whilst maintaining public protection.

BBfA aims to improve how regulatory services are delivered and to show how working with your local regulators can save you time and money, improve your competitiveness and help you grow your business.

It’s also about encouraging more businesses to seek advice from local regulators by highlighting the benefits of regulation to business, without fear of enforcement activity. And it’s about ensuring that regulatory staff better understand how businesses operate and the pressures businesses face.

With this in mind BBfA have embarked on a full programme of events and projects to help businesses, stay safe, trade more effectively and of course navigate the UK transition period, and here are three examples:

Allergens webinar – live event – Monday 5 October 2-3pm
Join officers from Environmental Health and Trading Standards to learn how to control allergens in the food you serve on our webinar.

This webinar will cover:

  • The 14 legally recognised allergens and the relevant legislation.
  • Practical advice on identifying allergens in ingredients and “may contain”.
  • Practical advice about preventing cross-contamination risks.
  • The importance of food management systems and practical implementation.
  • Links to additional support tools, advice and step-by-step guidance.
  • Changes to allergen labelling requirements in October 2021.

Plus there will be a chance to ask questions to get specific advice relating to their business.
The direct Eventbrite link is https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/environmental-health-amp-trading-standards-officers-31076240533

Better Business for All (BBFA) Covid Toolkit
The BBfA partnership created the covid toolkit which gives businesses everything they need to know in order to reopen safely.
The toolkit provides information and links to help businesses understand what their regulatory and legal responsibilities are and to help them through the main considerations for how to restart their business safely. It provides useful documents from a risk assessment templates and action plans to business checklists and safety guides even at a sector-specific level.
It will answer questions ranging from ‘can I open?’ right through to, how to reopen safely, travel advice for employees and visitors, guidance on personal protective equipment and hygiene.
The toolkit has now evolved and can be found in two parts here:

UK Transition
Working with the Heart of the South West Growth Hub, BBfA now has a dedicated webpage which is populated with Brexit related resources for businesses to access:

https://www.heartofswgrowthhub.co.uk/start-grow-business/transition/
This webpage will be updated regularly and BBFA promote ‘major’ updates.

STEP UP SOMERSET

STEP UP SOMERSET Is a new website providing a one-stop-shop for individuals, employers and businesses seeking support and information in relation to employment, skills, careers and apprenticeships in Somerset.

The new website www.stepupsomerset.org.uk supports individuals who are job hunting, seeking training in new industries or working to strengthen their skills by providing details of employment and skills services and resources. Those who find themselves at risk of or being made redundant can find a full range of support including help with reskilling, financial assistance and wellbeing information.

Employers will be able to gather information on redundancy support for their workforce, staff development and offering apprenticeships or industry placements to young people. The website will also provide a platform for promoting any recruitment or development events available to attend.

New Partnership With Be the Business to Help Fuel Economic Recovery

Be the Business, the Heart of the South West LEP, TDA and Destination Management Organisations across Devon and Somerset announce a new partnership to support hospitality and tourism leaders in rebuilding their business post-lockdown.

Be the Business is a government supported, business-led, non-profit organisation set-up to close the UK’s productivity gap. It aims to support every business owner in the country to improve their businesses productivity and competitiveness in response to Covid-19. The partnership aims to help the South West economy get back on its feet by supporting businesses to recover, renew and rebuild.

Be the Business will work with local partners to deliver a range of free products to tourism and hospitality businesses across the Heart of the South West area of Devon and Somerset, including:

  • 1-2-1 business surgery calls with an industry specialist
  • Peer-to-peer action learning groups: Groups of up to six business leaders can meet online with an executive coach to share experiences, discuss challenges and combine expertise to support one another in rebuilding businesses
  • Online masterclasses: A series of eight online masterclasses that will discuss the big business strategies that can be applied as small business tactics.

Alexander Rushton, Hospitality Programme Manager at Be the Business, said: “The South West is full of ambitious people and businesses and it’s clear that the next six months are key to business recovery. By working with locally driven partners, Be the Business can reach and support every hospitality and tourism business across the South West.”

Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said:  “The Heart of the South West has seen mercifully low cases of COVID-19 but has been amongst the hardest hit areas economically due to its dependence on sectors most affected by lockdown. There are a number of crucial initiatives that the LEP is working on to support businesses across the Heart of the South West, across all sectors, and business are urged to contact our Growth Hub for advice and support to restart, revitalise and grow.

“Be the Business is another important programme which further supports our tourism and hospitality businesses. Our joint efforts demonstrate further partnership working in the region to enable business recovery and help build resilience for the future, while protecting jobs.”

Businesses interested to find out more and to sign up to the programme should visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/hosweoi or email mailto:hospitality@bethebusiness.com or contact programme lead, Alexander Rushton, on 07887 775003.

Connectivity Progress in the Great South West

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris officially opened new £25million improvement works to Dawlish sea wall, protecting the vital rail link relied on by thousands of passengers and businesses across the South West.

The Minister was joined by Cllr Andrea Davis of the Peninsula Rail Task Force and local MP Anne Marie Morris, to discuss ongoing ambitions for rail in the region – as well as by representatives from Network Rail and GWR.

The opening marks the completion of the first phase of the works following £25m investment from the Government; and is part of a wider £80m plan to improve the railway’s resilience following the severe storms in 2014.

See the video of the works at Dawlish here: https://twitter.com/i/status/1309499402705399814

Maritime UK South West News

Partners from across HotSW and the wider South West submitted an ambitious “Future Ocean Institute” proposal to government’s comprehensive spending review. The bid focusses on marine autonomy and other smart, clean maritime technologies. The bid linked with a wider £1BN Maritime UK bid to decarbonise the sector and the growing potential of floating offshore wind in the South West.

The cluster continues its programme of marine technology online events with a “why invest in the South West” event and video which is being presented as part of Maritime Week and SeaTeach week in France. https://maritimeuksw.org/investment-and-collaboration-opportunities-in-sw-of-the-uk-ocean-economy/

The strength of the autonomy cluster was recognised also, in the award from the Department of Trade of a “High Potential Opportunity” investment programme for the region. Work on the programme has begun and aims to be complete by Spring 2021.

Maritime UK South West is the leading UK ocean technology cluster. More information is available at: https://www.maritimeuk.org/