We have the Heart of the South West, the Official Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), supposedly driving our local economy through productivity improvements. Then there have been a couple of organisations Owl describes as Provisional LEPs such as the “Golden Triangle” and the “South West Group Charter” which didn’t seem to last very long but made a lot of noise. Lately, we have also had a new entrant the Real LEP (or the LEP’s LEP ) “The Great South West” pitching to Sajid Javid on behalf of the three peninsular LEPs just before he resigned as Chancellor.
Now we have “Team Devon” proposing their Heinz 57+1 point plan to re-build the county’s post Covid-19 economy.
Owl doesn’t quite know what to make of it all. Certainly Owl has been unimpressed by all economic “planning” to date and thinks it might be helpful, in the short term, to focus on a County approach.
But 58 aims of: seeking, securing, lobbying, pursuing, working, establishing, enhancing, engaging, supporting, developing, implementing, confirming, improving, championing and taking forward is all a bit confusing for an Owl. (Apparently it has great potential to create 30,000 new jobs, 80,000 new training places and secure investment of £550 million, generating £2.8 billion of additional economic output. Let’s start counting!)
A recovery plan to enable Devon to re-build the county’s economy to be stronger, more inclusive and sustainable has been unveiled.
The programmes and projects listed in the prospectus for its COVID-19 Economy and Business Recovery Plan have the potential to create 30,000 new jobs, 80,000 new training places and secure investment of £550 million, generating £2.8 billion of additional economic output.
Devon’s economy is predicted to shrink by around 8 per cent this year, roughly 1 per cent more than the rest of the UK, according to a new impact assessment commissioned by Team Devon, which suggests that the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will continue in the medium term with recovery likely to be slow through to 2023.
But the prospectus outlines the vision of how the county can level up its economy in response to the crisis with immediate priorities to seek an initial investment package of £56m to support the hardest hit communities and sustain 6,500 local jobs, deliver 5,000 training opportunities and support 7,500 enterprises to assist businesses to re-open, adapt and grow, help young people and those at risk of redundancy find or keep a job, and invest in Devon’s hardest hit communities and sectors.
Team Devon, a public and private sector partnership drawing in expertise from business, education, skills and public sector organisations, has developed the plan with the backing of business representatives, Devon’s County, District and City Councils, the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Dartmoor National Park and Devon’s MP’s.
Cllr Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “COVID 19 has had a disproportionate impact on Devon’s businesses and residents, and it’s likely that the next two years may be among the most challenging in living memory for our local economy.
“All of the partners in Team Devon are united in the belief that there is now an opportunity to restart, regrow and reset our economy to enable Devon to emerge a stronger, more dynamic place to live and work. With the right support at national and local level we can achieve our ambition for a more inclusive and sustainable economy that benefits us all.”
The impact of the economic downturn across Devon has varied depending on sector and location. In the tourism and hospitality sector, 92 per cent of Devon businesses were disrupted by the crisis between March and June, but only 5 per cent of business in the digital sector faced the same level of disruption.
The unemployment claimant count in Exeter doubled in the three months to June, while in the South Hams it increased by 400 per cent, while unemployment among those aged between 18-25 and over 50 tripled in the same period, almost twice as fast as the Devon average.
Recovery is also predicted to vary greatly, with forecast of a two-year dip and recovery period in Exeter, through to a 10 per cent reduction and five-year recovery for some other areas of the county such as Mid Devon and Torridge. For some sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, it may take a decade to return to levels of income and employment experienced in 2019.
The Team Devon COVID-19 Economy and Business Recovery Prospectus aims to achieve thriving and successful city, town and rural communities attracting residents, visitors, businesses and students to live, work, learn and visit safely and feel connected, to ensure economic performance and employment reaches pre-COVID-19 levels by 2022, and that every individual can access a worthwhile job, undertake relevant and meaningful training and progress in learning or secure employment providing the income they need to thrive.
WHAT THE AIMS OF THE PLAN ARE?
- Pursue the allocation of a Great South West Tourism Zone to include Devon, providing support towards new visitor attractions and features, activity that can extend the tourism season and support for improving transport and the visitor experience.
- Seek £10m of additional grant funding to support the tourism sector in Devon, providing up to £5,000 per business to support adaption and reopening costs, marketing and communications and other projects which benefit trade and the visitor experience.
- Implement a regional certificated scheme on opening safely,seeking to utilise the well-received Better Business for All Toolkit approach and Buy with Confidence approved trader scheme.
- Lobby for a sector specific extension to the furlough scheme and VAT payment deferral – support the sector with extensions to these two national support measures and other potential costs around reopening safely. Seek a relaxation of furlough regulations taking account of specific issues for seasonal and part time workers.
- Working closely with DWP, take forward an accelerated approach to redeployment / rapid retraining of staff members made redundant within the tourism sector, including providing access to short retraining courses and tailored employability support into other sectors, such as Digital or Health and Care
- Seek £500,000 to provide up to 500 additional training places for the Tourism sector, including additional support in leadership and management, customer service, business administration and sector specific skills (catering, hospitality)
- Establish an enhanced business support offer for the Tourism sector, including hospitality and leisure leadership and management This would include a ‘Be the Business’ training programme to support business planning, rebuilding and embed learning around COVID-19 impacts.
- Enhance the resilience of the sector through grant support for projects which look to extend the tourism season and reinforce local supply chains, including support for diversification of individual offers (around health, environmental and accessible tourism) and which encourage local buying / purchasing. This includes a ‘Made in Devon’ quality approval scheme linked to Buy with Confidence.
- Pursue Town Funding for regeneration projects which contribute to the visitor economy in 8 coastal and rural locations, including town centre renewal in Ilfracombe and Dawlish.
- Seek additional support for our Destination Management Organisations, to sustain their operations and take forward additional joint destination marketing activity over the next year
- Seek an additional £10m of grant support towards assisting agriculture and food & drink sector to restart within Devon, providing £5,000 per business towards adaption, mitigation and diversification activity.
- Engage additional staff resources to support producers to diversify and access new markets. To include support and grants for accessing new markets; product promotion, realising export opportunities, assistance with diversification, and bringing together suppliers and buyers in line with the South West Food Hub Model
- Seek £150,000 to support 150 additional training places in the agricultural sector, including in farm management, engineering and livestock and animal health certifications
- Seek support for additional technical and higher skill training opportunities in agriculture, food & drink including across engineering, science based and management competencies and Agri-tech
- Become an active partner in the South West Good Food Network,seeking to drive forward new collaborations around logistics and digital solutions, with the aim of utilising more of the food we produce close to
- Implement a ‘Made in Devon’ campaign aligned with Buy with Confidence, seeking to promote the region as a food destination /quality supplier, and promoting local consumption and buying.
- Seek additional grant support for retail businesses facing the double whammy of lockdown and now modification costs to operate, building on existing Government led programmes to enable stores within our hardest hit high streets to manage costs and supporting essential COVID-19 modifications
- Seek to support existing Business Improvement Districts to enhance their offer, working with local BID teams and District / Town Councils to enhance, re-purpose and future proof the high street experience and our retail hubs as destinations.
- Working closely with DWP, take forward an accelerated approach to redeployment of staff members made redundant by the retail sector, including providing access to short retraining courses and tailored employability support.
- Implement a regional quality assurance scheme which promotes consumer confidence in safety on the high streetby building on the Buy with Confidence, approved trader scheme
- Develop and implement a specific digital skills and support programme to capitalise on the online trading and digital opportunities for the sector.
- Develop a ‘Late Payment’ pilot to support small business with cashflow,seeking to use small grants and a better approach to online invoicing to improve payment terms
- Provide support for 150 additional sector skills places through the Sector Skills Training approach, with a focus on site operations, civils, trades, modern methods of construction and wider new and high demand construction
- Take forward an enhanced programme around supporting businesses to champion sustainable construction, including additional training around sustainable supply chains and community wealth, new building skills and future building methods and materials and supply chains choices.
- Public Sector Stimulus – Consider how local government can support the sector to grow through simplifying and streamlining procurementand planning This would include the publication of the public sector’s 3 year construction programme across Devon, providing an opportunity for construction businesses and other interested parties to align their supply chain offer
- Support smaller construction business and trades to access support, new markets and supply chains by bringing together suppliers and SMEs with tier 1 construction companies and consider how local government can support the sector to grow through simplifying and streamlining procurement and planning policies
- Support local employment and training – Work with the sector to maximise the value of existing projects for Devon, through agreeing local labour agreements to support employment and skills goals, and local procurement approaches to best utilise the local supply chain.
- Ensure early delivery of housing schemes funded from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (South West Exeter, Tiverton, Cullompton, Barnstaple and Ilfracombe, Dawlish) to support the construction sector and provide new homes
- Secure at least £15m additional town and high street funding to restart our hardest hit communities, making a case for new capital and revenue funding to support a number of our rural, coastal and market town communities.
- Confirm and accelerate Future High Street Fund indicative awards to our towns, and sign off business cases for Bideford, Barnstaple and Newton Abbot
- Improve consumer confidence through a coordinated approach to promoting our high streets, towns and communities, facilities, services and businesses, building local confidence to shop and visit safely and develop our digital retail offer
- Extend the Work Hub Programme, securing £1m to build on the successful work hubs network and enable rural communities and smaller towns to grow their own local service provision, including options to develop community assets and hubs
- Digital infrastructure investment – improve mobile and digital connectivity in rural areas through working with communities to maximise the national Rural Gigabit Voucher Programme and local Mobile Boost Voucher scheme, in addition to piloting new solutions where poor coverage still remains.
- Transport Connectivity and Housing – develop community, town and city transport initiatives and infrastructure, including for cycling, buses, rail and other forms of sustainable transport – between and within communities. We will support the housing sector by accelerating Housing Infrastructure Fund supported projects and increasing affordable homes.
- Seek increased investment to facilitate city / town centre living, with partners seeking to secure £1.5m for investment in and development of vacant high street property in 3 pilot locations, including Exeter and utilise local apprenticeship programmes to improve construction skills
- Develop and secure investment for a city / town set of renewal plans – including sharing best practice and ideas develop proposals for future funding opportunities including One Public Estate, Land Release Fund, Coastal Community Funding, Zero-carbon pilots and Garden Communities programme.
- Natural Capital Programme – secure £15m to develop projects to support flood prevention, landscape management, carbon sequestration and develop a Woodland Enterprise Zone including an Enterprise Hub, apprenticeship and skills programme.
- Energy Infrastructure – £20m investment to enable smart energy management and renewable energy generation through upgrading the national grid network.
- Work with Government to accelerate funding for Dawlish sea wall / rail infrastructure and A303 upgrades.
- Bring together a Devon Skills Recovery Partnership, responsible for the delivery of relevant actions within the County’s Implementation Plan and instituting a “no wrong door” approach across core services
- Support the campaign for a September / Opportunity Guarantee for Young People, seeking to ensure that every young person between 16-25 has access to a training or vocational learning place next academic year if they wish to take it.
- Implement an enhanced Careers, Information, Advice and Guidance Service across Devon for Autumn 2020, covering both Young People and Displaced Adults. The partnership will be supported by an additional £75,000 towards communications and marketing costs.
- Work with DWP, District Councils, CABs and other local economic and community partners to take forward a joined-up approach to redeployment into opportunities sectors such as Health and Social Care, building on the Sector Based Work Academy model to support individuals, in particular young people to retrain / redeploy into new / relevant roles
- Seek £1m of additional resources towards a Sector Skills Response Package, focused on working with those leaving Tourism, Retail and other hard-hit sectors to train and remobilise. Where return isn’t an option, seek opportunities to career jump into opportunity sectors such as health, digital or engineering
- Seek £500,000 of funding to implement an enhanced Volunteering / Traineeship / Apprenticeship approach, supporting partners to fast track development of traineeship / pre-apprenticeship opportunities for young people and adults alike. Seek to maximise opportunities in growth sectors such as health or digital roles.
- Work with Government to secure an initial £1.5m of additional support towards employability / adult basic skills provision for Autumn 2020, including additional support for digital literacy, outreach and ‘career jumping’ opportunities (supporting those being displaced from or requiring upskilling in the Tourism, Retail and Construction sectors)
- Seek funding for and implement a new £8m Technical Skills Development Programme across Devon, providing new opportunities within growth and foundation sectors (including digital, advanced engineering and manufacturing, health, tourism, construction and retail).
- Seek to secure up to £7.5m of additional resources to increase the sustainability of apprenticeships, traineeships and wider learning, including through bursaries / maintenance support, wage subsidies, assistance with rural and access to education transport costs, support for digital equipment and connectivity; and other measures.
- Secure additional support for Devon’s Training Provider Network and network of Employment and Skills Boards, supporting their ability to act as a first point of contact and support with Devon’s business community and training providers, and empowering them to support implementation of new programmes.
- Work with the ESFA and wider partners to support measures around provider sustainability and growth, including support with financial hardship amongst training providers, and costs around modification and diversification linked to COVID-19
- Seek up to £90m of resources from the Further Education Capital Programme, including resources to enhance digital capacity within our College and Provider Network to provide virtual learning and further modernise and grow the local FE estate
- Seek to secure £10m towards a Green Skills Development Package for Devon, incorporating capital and revenue programme to be spent over the next three years to Fast-track relevant sector and employment opportunities
- Secure up to £20m of additional innovation and skills development opportunities working with the County’s Universities and Colleges, with a focus on high growth and clean growth innovation and high value employment in opportunity areas such as health, green economy and advanced manufacturing and engineering.
- Roll out an ambitious Domestic Energy efficiency and Energy Generation Pilot – a council tax pilot with an ask of £77.5m to support 37,000 households over 3 years to invest in energy efficiency and energy generation measures, stimulating demand for environmental technologies and construction sectors
- Carbon In-setting Pilot – Working alongside Government, develop an appropriate regulatory framework for a pilot carbon in-setting approach, seeking to reduce / offset carbon emissions back through supply
- Establish a Centre for Clean Mobility at Exeter Science Park – £3.75m – create a high-specification collaboration laboratory to be used for research, development and innovation, with strong industrial engagement to test autonomy within marine, off-highway, HGV, rail, and defence sectors.
- Champion a SMART Aviation Cluster and Freeport Proposal – working with Exeter Airport and other partners – support the development of new classes of electrical and autonomous air vehicles, such as drones, 3 to 5 person green aircraft and commercial green aircraft, and linking together with the new Future Skills Academy led by Exeter College and additional innovation capacity within the local area.
- Seek Government support of £1.83m for a comprehensive and future proofed Electric Vehicle and Shared Mobility infrastructure network across 58 of Devon’s communities with a population of over 1,100
Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council and Chair of Devon Districts Forum, added: “We are only now beginning to realise what the economic impact of the pandemic will be for Devon. This prospectus is exactly what we need, it outlines a clear way forward for job creation and investment.
“As Chair of the Devon Districts Forum, I am pleased to be able to say that all of the District Authorities in Devon have committed to working together and delivering this plan. As the fourth worst impacted county in the country, this prospectus will be central to Devon’s recovery and future growth.”
Melanie Squires, Regional Director, South West NFU, said: “Despite often being unseen down farm lanes or behind hedges, like the rest of the economy the farming community has had a significant shock from Covid-19 and will continue to deal with the after effects for some time, with the double whammy of so many having also diversified into the tourism and hospitality sector.”
Anthony Mangnall, MP for Totnes, said: “We have faced an unforeseen challenge in the form of Covid-19 and we now face the monumental challenge of rebuilding our economy. This document represents the views and thoughts of local leaders from politicians to business owners to college principles.
“It is focused on the many strengths of Devon’s economy as well as developing and expanding clean green growth opportunities, improving our digital and transport networks all with the aim of encouraging new jobs and business investment to our special and unique part of the United Kingdom.”
Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, said: “It’s vital that we work together to help our communities through this crisis, as well as taking the opportunity to build on the lessons we’ve learned. I’m pleased to support Team Devon’s plan for a sustainable recovery.”
A more detailed plan and investment strategy is being developed by Team Devon to support the delivery of its actions, and it will be working in partnership with Government, Heart of the South West LEP and other agencies to implement the plan.