Owl says: where HAS all the money gone, Mr Hindley?
And why are the “same old” people who spent it all but failed to give us a devolution package we could all sign up to now trying to capture a new group to keep future money in the “same old” hands?
“South West business must pull together to unlock regional prosperity, a regional business leader has warned.
Steve Hindley, Chairman of Heart of the South West LEP, said that the only way to unlock government cash is to present a unified front. And he revealed that a devolution deal for Devon and Somerset is effectively off the table for now.
He was speaking about his wishes for the region at the Devon and Cornwall Business Council spring conference held at Flybe Training Centre at Exeter Airport today.
He said: “What I would like to see doesn’t involve government. I would like to see more co-ordination in the South West with the industrial strategy for our aeronautical, marine, food, nuclear, data analytics and creative sectors.
“We have got an enthusiastic bunch of business people that are leading in the agenda and that’s the way the Government begins to take notice of the South West.
“It is my wish that we get our act together before we go to government.”
Mr Hindley was joined by Tim Jones, Chairman of DCBC, Karine Hassan, Chief Executive of Exeter City Council, Mark Duddridge, Chairman of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP and Louise Pasterfield, Managing Director of Sponge UK for a panel discussion of the major issues that businesses currently face including productivity, skills, innovation and devolution.
The region is hindered by a lack of investment in skills and infrastructure but it has the power to take responsibility for it own prosperity. Mr Hindley said the way to drive transformation in the region was to meet the aims of the Industrial Growth Strategy, set out by Theresa May in January.
“That is what is on the table at the moment,” he said. Devolution as a way of taking control of cash from Westminster is currently off the agenda. He said: “I am disappointed that in Devon and Somerset we have not moved forward on devolution. That was a missed opportunity that has gone now. The money has all been spent.
“With 19 authorities involved it was always going to be very difficult.”
But Mr Jones insisted that areas like the Northern Powerhouse, that had secured a devolution deal, had been singled out for investment in the spring budget.
And Mr Duddridge said that Cornwall’s own devolution deal had brought great advantages despite being much maligned by the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, Sajid Javid. The key is to take to government a well presented business case to attract funding, said Mr Hassan. Exeter is at the forefront of pioneering environmental science and deserves investment in innovation and skills. And in Plymouth, 40% of workers at digital firm Sponge UK are Plymouth University graduates.
Mr Hassan said: “Right across the country, significant investment is going to other areas not to major institutions like our universities. “If we don’t get our act together, all the other institutions are going to leave us behind.
“We have got to work out what we are going to go to government with to unlock funding to make this place sing like the rest of the country.”
The message set out by the conference is echoed by the Western Morning News’ #BackTheSouthWest campaign. It has culminated in the Growth Charter, presented to government, that sets out a series of pledges by the business community to improve the fortunes of the region alongside a series of asks from government to support regional growth.”