Devo bid to boost prosperity for South West goes to Government

Council chiefs and business leaders in Devon and Somerset have submitted their ‘prospectus for productivity’ to the Government in a bid to win more powers to boost jobs and growth.

They say they want a ‘devolution revolution’ to improve the lives of people in Devon and Somerset.

The prospectus has been submitted to the Government after being separately endorsed by every local authority in the two counties.

They say the changes they propose would result in higher productivity and better-paid jobs, improved road, rail and broadband links and more homes for the region’s growing population.

Devo Bid South West

There would be radical reforms to integrate health and social care to allow the ageing population to be better looked after, tailored support for growing businesses and the creation of a centre of excellence for skills development.

The submission of the bid follows months of concentrated work by council chiefs in Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay with 13 district councils, Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks, the local NHS and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.

They want more powers and finance devolved from Westminster to the region so they can close the productivity gap and allow local people to benefit from a thriving economy.

Currently productivity in the South West is running at less than 80 per cent of the national average. But the document promises that, if local councils have greater freedom to act, by 2030 they will help deliver:

  • A £4 billion uplift to the economy
  • 163,000 new jobs
  • 179,000 more homes
  • Higher wage levels which are above the national average
  • Apprenticeship starts up by 400 per cent
  • Every young person in education, employment or training
  • A better qualified workforce
  • Faster, more reliable rail services with greater capacity
  • Faster road journeys with less congestion
  • 100 per cent superfast broadband coverage
  • A UK centre of excellence for skills development

The bid points out that the South West already has world-beating expertise in a number of significant areas such as knowledge-based skills in Exeter, marine industries in Plymouth, nuclear technology in Somerset and aerospace in Yeovil as well as its traditional industries like agriculture, fishing and tourism.

Cllr Harvey Siggs, Leader of Mendip District Council, said: “Whilst the bid highlights certain key areas this is only part of the story. This is aiming to benefit all of the area which very much includes Mendip. Better opportunities for our youngsters and businesses. Better connection by road and rail. Linking up agencies to provide better services to those who live in this district and across the South West.”

Somerset County Council Leader John Osman said: “This is the culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of people and to see a document like this endorsed by 23 authorities in such a short space of time is quite an achievement.

“The challenge now is to not lose the momentum. We have to make sure we are pushing our case with Westminster because this bid it about the future prosperity of the region, its businesses and communities and it’s paramount that we make the most of the opportunity.”                                       

Steve Hindley, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Businesses across the Heart of the South West are the driving force that will deliver transformational growth and are keen to be at the helm of a prospective devolution deal alongside local authority partners.

“We look forward to working with Government and investors as we embark on this journey towards prosperity and increased productivity that will benefit not only the Heart of the South West but the UK economy as a whole.”

Photo: Devolution partners. Harvey Siggs far left, John Osman 5th from the right.