Is this formal recognition that the Local Enterprise Partnerships idea has failed?
The questions Owl has are these: How is “The Great South West” and its Chairman Steve Hindley accountable to us, the people who live here? Who gets to choose the “Great Leader” of the “Great South West”? How is what they do, and plan to do, on our behalves scrutinised?
Without satisfactory answers to these questions wouldn’t we be in danger of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire?
As owl has said before (eg here and here) these initiatives always seem to involve the same business men (not women) with a background in property or construction, who hop from one quango to another, without achieving any positive change for the region.
Owl is surprised that so many are prepared to jump so unquestioningly on this band wagon.
The government is being urged to move swiftly to recognise the four counties of the far South West as a region in their own right.
Veteran Devon MP Sir Gary Streeter has written to the Prime Minister, with the backing for MPs from across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Somerset and Dorset.
His letter is prompted by the news that the Government intends to delay any decision until after the forthcoming White Paper on Devolution.
Leaders of the Great South West campaign met the Prime Minister in Downing Street in November last year. They explained the background to their campaign to win recognition for the four counties as a bloc.
Sir Gary said the campaign was supported by the three local enterprise partnerships, all local authorities and all MPs in the region.
“Since 2016, an alliance of all stakeholders behind this project has been painstakingly put in place.” Sir Gary said. This included the Western Morning News, one of our sister print titles.
His letter to the Prime Minister, copied to the Chancellor, the Communities Secretary and the Chief Whip, asks for recognition of the Great South West region now and not after the White Paper on devolution has run its course. Sir Gary said that could result in a delay of up to 18 months.
All the MPs from across the region have given their support, though Sir Gary did not ask Ministers or shadow Ministers to endorse the letter.
“We feel we have waited long enough,” Sir Gary said. “We need this now so we can speak coherently to the Government, and the Government can speak to us.
“I think our region is going to be one of the hardest hit economically by the pandemic, and it will be significant to have a framework for the Government to talk to.
“It has taken a long time to put together this alliance of LEPs, local authorities and business communities. We need to see some success for this campaign to ensure that we keep the alliance together.”
The past couple of years has seen the rise of regional blocs such as the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine.
“The Government very much likes strategic collaboration and devolution,” Sir Gary said. “We are pushing at an open door.”
In his letter, Sir Gary said the Great South West campaign had put together a “compelling prospectus for growth” in its Securing our Future document. That was launched and submitted before the last election.
“It strongly supports the government’s levelling up agenda by delivering a massive £45 billion boost to the regional economy and creating 190,000 new jobs by 2035,” Sir Gary writes.
“We were pleased to learn that at the Downing Street meeting in November you gave your whole-hearted support to this project.”
He said that Steve Hindley, chair of the Great South West steering group, wrote recently to the Communities Secretary to reiterate the urgency of granting the regional recognition and seedcorn funding needed, “not least to help us recover from the impact of Covid-19”.
He added: “It was a huge disappointment for us to learn last week that the government is not proposing to grant us recognition at this time, but intends to delay any decision until after the forthcoming White Paper on Devolution has been issued and consulted upon, which could easily result in a delay of possibly a year or more.
“There is a strong feeling in our region that other regional groupings have been recognised and supported and that once again, the South West is being short-changed.
“We are writing to draw to your personal attention to the strength of feeling across the region about this matter, and to urge government to release the full potential of the Great South West and the many benefits to our constituents by granting recognition immediately – even if this has to be fine-tuned once the White Paper and subsequent legislation has taken place.”