Why could this be important for Owl’s readership? Of all the parliamentary committees, the Treasury Committee (chaired by the majority party) and the Public Accounts Committee (chaired by the opposition) are arguably two of the most important, holding the government to account by inquiries and scrutiny. When an election is called all committee business ceases. The newly elected parliament and its committees may or may not continue with inquiries in progress.
The previous treasury committee had just started taking oral evidence in an inquiry into regional imbalances in the UK economy. So it is to be hoped that the new committee will continue with this inquiry. Mel Stride is the MP for Central Devon and is, therefore, particularly well placed to make sure that Devon and the South West generally are not left behind in the race to re-balance the economy to the regions, primarily the “red wall” in the North.
Mel Stride MP will formally take up position as Chair of the Committee when the remaining members of the Committee have been named by the House. This is expected to be announced in February.
Owl has posted a number of links in the past couple of weeks to studies that highlight the deprivation and isolation found in rural areas, especially in Devon.
Owl has also posted the Great South West’s latest attempt to make the case for more investment.
Last September the East Devon Alliance submitted evidence to this inquiry of the imbalance felt here in Devon.Theirs was the only evidence submitted by any solely Devon organisation among 76 submissions. The summary reproduced below seems to Owl to make a compelling case.
Written evidence submitted by the East Devon Alliance (RDE0002)
- There is a widespread belief that the “far” South West has suffered long-term lack of strategic investment hampering economic growth, particularly in Devon and Cornwall.
- We present evidence of poor economic growth, productivity and earnings in the sub-region.
- East Devon has 30% of its population already aged 65+ with high social and health care needs. It has one of the highest internal immigration rates in a region which, overall, has the highest rate of this type of immigration in the country.
- We present evidence of the unaffordability of housing and show that it is a matter of low earnings. The private sector has been unable to build the affordable houses needed.
- We highlight poor access to public transport as one of the discriminants between metropolitan and rural life.
- The creation of Local Enterprise partnerships (LEP) has added complexity to local government with little benefit. They are unrepresentative, unaccountable and have minimal public recognition. Our LEP growth deal was agreed with Government in 2014. Nothing was revealed to the public until 2015.
- We explain why increased productivity in our economy will take a long time to achieve.
- Our LEP’s strategy to double the economy in 20 years, 3.5% pa growth, lacks realism and is undeliverable. The latest LEP review shows our economy continuing to fall behind UK average; objectives already look “very aspirational”; only 23% of matched funding comes from private sector; there has been no significant influence on private investment plans.
- Regional and sub-regional economic data is essential to good planning, feedback and scrutiny. Our LEP has no feed-back loop to understand what works well and what does not.
- We give examples where our LEP and District Council have missed the opportunity to analyse readily available data. As a result they are continuing to follow growth strategies and plans demonstrably failing at an early stage.
- Hinkley C is regarded by our LEP as a “Golden Opportunity”. However, construction of Hinkley A & B (57/65 & 67/76) means that we have already experienced two decades building similar magnitude nuclear projects. We ask whether any forensic historical analysis of the benefit from such major infrastructure projects to local economies has ever been conducted and suggest that Hinkley C is substituting for a genuine regional growth strategy.