LEPs unite to forge Great South West Partnership to exploit economic potential
A campaign to highlight the South West’s economic potential and make the case for Government investment on a par with other UK regions has been launched at Westminster.
An alliance of business leaders, local authorities and higher education chiefs formally launched its Great South West vision that aims to put the South West on the UK economic map, to Parliament.
The delegation from the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Dorset and Heart of the South West LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships) were in London this week (September 5) to promote the South West’s economic development ambitions.
They are calling on the government to give their vision for growth the same high-profile backing as other initiatives like the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine.
Great South West Partnership Chair & Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Steve Hindley CBE DL said:
“The Great South West already has an economy twice the size of Greater Manchester’s and the West Midlands’. We have the largest building project in Europe underway at Hinkley Point C, as well as unrivalled natural assets that attract more visitors than anywhere outside London.
“This partnership stands out from the other UK public-led economic partnerships, as ours heavily backed by the business and university sector, and by working together we have the benefit of scale that gives us the chance to really show what we can do, given the right backing from Government.
“We’re now on the verge transformational growth in productivity, and we’re looking forward to realising our full potential and increasing our contribution to the UK economy on the back of increasing the prosperity of our local communities and businesses.”
Dorset LEP Chair, Jim Stewart, said:
“The South West economy is nationally significant and is larger than any combined authority - double the size of both Greater Manchester and West Midlands. Yet we are not receiving the same financial investment from the government as these regions.
“Our Great South West alliance of regional business leaders, academic heads and local authorities is determined to win backing for our plans that will put the region on the economic map.”
In July a government review of LEPs said the partnerships played a crucial role in ‘supercharging’ economic growth and the delivery of its Industrial Strategy.
Mark Duddridge, Chair of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LEP, said:
“The government’s recent review of LEPs acknowledged their vital role in developing ambitious strategies for growth and driving investment and job creation.
“The Great South West is about cross-LEP collaboration on a shared agenda, such as transport and infrastructure that can deliver real growth in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as well as the wider South West.”
Representatives from the three LEPs met with South West’s MPs at a meeting in Westminster to launch Great South West. The MPs received a presentation, which set out the economic significance of the region.
In addition to having double the size economy of Greater Manchester and West Midlands, Great South West also contributes more to UK Gross Value Added than both Thames Gateway and Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor.
It also has a bigger productivity than both the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine but lags behind the English average.
When productivity in the South West matches current levels in the South East, the region will add more than £18 billion a year to the UK economy.
In addition, tourism is a huge industry, with the region attracting more visitors than anywhere outside London.
And the South West is also home to the largest aerospace sector in the UK, with pioneering automotive, nuclear and marine renewables and microelectronics industries. It also has a growing creative and digital sector.
Dorset West MP Sir Oliver Letwin worked with the LEPs on arranging the meeting with members of Parliament. He said:
“This meeting provided a great opportunity for South West MPs to be properly briefed about this exciting proposition, which could grow to deliver a significant step-change in productivity for the South West.
“It is highly encouraging to see the diversity and number of stakeholders, even at this early stage - with Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities, universities, the CBI, Chambers of Commerce and many others all involved in the Great South West project.
“I hope that this project can continue to move forward with ever increasing momentum, and to help further realise the extraordinary economic potential of the South West.”
The Great South West partnership faces a number of challenges, including transport and connectivity, large dispersed populations and some of the country’s most deprived areas. This results in low productivity.
To tackle these challenges Great South West is calling the government to support it to improve transport connectivity and strategic routes, drive productivity in trade and build supply chains and increase economic connectivity in the rural sector.
A letter has been sent to James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to seek formal government support and investment for Great South West.