“Heart of the South West, our Local Enterprise Partnership, gets its first school report and it’s not good”

Local David Daniel, a former senior government strategist, who has done much work on the East Devon economy, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSWLEP) statistics and forecasts and county growth figures (and presented these to EDDC and Devon County Council) has provided this analysis of the current “achievements” of HotSWLEP.

It must be recalled that HotSWLEP is sucking up vast amounts of money that in the past would have gone direct to local authorities and its board members (apart from a few councillors) have vested interests in housing development, the nuclear industry, commercial banking and Hinkley C recruitment.

Here is the report:

“As a result of the 2017 Mary Ney review of Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Governance, a newly formed Joint Scrutiny Committee is to scrutinise Heart of the South West’s (HotSW) annual performance review. This will take place on

Thursday, 14 February, in County Hall at 2.15.

There will, however, be no opportunity for public engagement or speaking and this Scrutiny Committee is not politically balanced but appointed by the very councils that agreed HotSW’s strategy in the first place.

Credit where credit’s due, this is progress! Remember, HotSW was appointed by the Government to act as our “devolution body in waiting” in 2011. It didn’t publish minutes of any meetings in the public domain until 2015. Yet it had already agreed a growth deal with the Government on our behalf the year before, 2014.

It has since published wildly ambitious strategy papers culminating with its Productivity Strategy in late 2017 aimed at doubling our local economy first in 18 years, later revised to 20 years, through transformational growth in the “Golden Opportunity” economic sectors of: Aerospace; Marine; Nuclear; Data Analytics and Healthcare. Economic growth comes from increasing the labour force and/or increasing productivity.

Demographically, the population is set to grow 0.8% p.a. but it is an ageing one and the growth of those of employable age will only be a fifth of this at 0.16% p.a. HotSW intends to “limit growth” in employment to 0.8% per annum and concentrate on raising productivity way above the national average. But even this “limited” growth in employment is five times the trend and will need substantial inward migration.

When this strategy was written, productivity in the HotSW area ranked 7th worst in England. An Office of National Statistics (ONS) report last week said: “The lowest labour productivity in 2016 was in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. Other largely rural LEPs with relatively low labour productivity included Heart of the South West, Greater Lincolnshire, and The Marches”. The ONS now places HotSW lower at 4th worst, 18% below UK average.

We now have the opportunity to lift the lid and peer into how successful HotSW has been in meeting the targets it agreed, by reading the HotSW annual performance review for 2017, commissioned from Ash Futures.

Investment

HotSW has secured a total of some £245M to date from central government funds, though, when assessed on a per head basis, HoSW has actually received one of the lower allocations across the LEP network. These funds are supposed to be matched by funding from other sources.

LEPs have to be business-chaired and business-led and it was intended that LEPs would unlock private investment. However, the bulk of this matched funding is forecast to come from public bodies including 17% from local authorities. Only 23% will come from the private sector. In regard to this the report says: “Our consultations have also highlighted that the strategic plan is not perceived as having had any significant influence over private sector investment plans.”

Only seven of the 56 funded projects are yet complete in spending terms and so the bulk of the benefits are yet to come. Though this needs to be read in the context of a continuous stream of past funding previously distributed through Regional Development Agencies.

Of these projects, 30 are designed to create conditions for growth e.g. transport and digital infrastructure; 17 are designed to capitalise on distinctive assets in expected high growth sectors such as low-carbon and nuclear energy, marine, big data and photonics; and seven on maximising productivity and growth such as opening up employment space.

Several stakeholders feel that rural areas have been ‘overlooked’ by LEP investments and much of this due to this original identification of urban-based transformational opportunities. However, this should not come as a surprise given the composition of the original HotSW board which was dominated by individuals from a construction/development; defence/nuclear or big education background.

Here are some examples of the sort of projects submitted in the bid proposals:

£13 million to provide Hinkley C infrastructure and £55 million of pump priming to provide Hinkley housing;

a Nuclear Training College;

and one of the deals agreed includes £13.7 million loan funding to three developers to accelerate home building at: Frome, Brixham, Exeter and Highbridge. (You may ask why developers need such funding).

Much is made of the “Golden Opportunity” offered by Hinkley C. This is not the first nuclear power station to be built on the site. Hinkley A was constructed between 1957 and 1965 and Hinkley B between 1967 and 1976. So there should be plenty of historical evidence of the short and long-term economic benefits of such developments. Where are they or are they too insignificant to be found? It is no longer obvious that this is a growth industry.

Economic Measures and Growth

Lack of progress in making any significant changes to our economy are best illustrated by two direct quotes from the review:

“…….the review of economic data leads to the overall conclusion that the HoSW economy, at best, continues to track the ‘baseline’ growth scenario. That is, there is no firm evidence that it is achieving either ‘strong’ or ‘transformational’ growth as aspired to in the Strategic Economic Plan.” [Baseline – continuing to fall behind UK average; Strong – keeping pace with UK average; Transformational – faster than UK average]

“The plan outcome measures and objectives in the current economic environment do not currently look achievable, certainly in the short-term. Some of this is outside of the LEP partnership’s control (with more muted conditions nationally). However, the fact that many of the Strategic Plan outcome measures are expressed in relative terms does means that even if significant absolute improvements have been made to the HoSW economy, they may still never meet their outcome measures given that other areas will grow more quickly, notably London and South East. It is our view that some of the outcome targets, particularly those associated with the ‘transformational’ target, now look very aspirational in their nature.”

The only areas on track appear to be in the delivery of broadband coverage and in housing development density (development rates against existing stock).

Conclusion

For an unelected body that made a pitch to Government eight years ago that it could transform the local economy, including, initially, delivering health and transport, this below average performance from unlocking investment to falling productivity surely can only be seen as a failure?

The review catalogues the “critical issues” (excuses) for shortfalls: the economic context has changed; the expected ‘freedom and flexibilities’ have subsequently been rolled-back by Government; parameters [strings] have been tied around what could be funded; HoSW is a relatively new ‘construct’ and does not naturally represent a functional economic, or political, area as found elsewhere in the UK.

But that’s life. Any worthwhile strategic plan needs have been developed to be robust against a set of likely future scenarios. The “critical issues” listed above shouldn’t have come as surprise and the sensitivity of the plan to these sorts of “issues”, some use the term risks, should have been examined and reported. Another essential component, given the extreme uncertainty of how to improve productivity, should have been the development of a set of metrics and a feedback mechanism. So it is heartening to see that the reviewers make this recommendation:

“Currently, there is no ‘feedback loop’ back to the Strategic Investment Panel to develop its understanding of ‘what has worked well, and what not’ with investments made. Whilst we recognise that many projects are still at an early stage of development, we feel this is a missed opportunity. A better understanding of how investments have developed would lead to better long-term decision-making.”

On the basis of this review, is HotSW delivering value for money (our money)?

SOURCES:

Joint Scrutiny Agenda and Ash Futures Review reports pack:
https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/documents/g3570/Public%20reports%20pack%2014th-Feb-2019%2014.15%20Heart%20of%20the%20South%20West%20HotSW%20Local%20Enterprise%20Partnersh.pdf?T=10

Office for National Statistics latest productivity data:
https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/labourproductivity/articles/regionalandsubregionalproductivityintheuk/february2018#results-for-local-enterprise-partnerships-and-city-regions

HotSW Productivity Strategy:
https://heartofswlep.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/HeartoftheSouthWestProductivityStrategy.pdf

HotSW Strategic Economic Plan
https://heartofswlep.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Non-tech-summary-FINAL.pdf

LEP Growth Strategy branded “ludicrous” but still supported by (Tory) South Hams council!

Owl says: Owl has a strategy to catch twice as many mice as it catch now. The fact that there are far fewer mice, much less farmland, Owl is getting very much older and no owl has ever caught that many mice ever is immaterial – but it gives Owl “something to aim for”!

Councillors really do need to sit a test before they pretend to represent us!

“Plans to double SW productivity branded ‘ludicrous’

Plans to double the productivity of the South West by 2038 have been slammed as “ludicrous and a fairytale”.

The Heart of the South West Joint Committee has a vision for the whole of the region to become more prosperous, for people to have a better quality of life and to create a more vibrant economy where the benefits can be shared by everyone.

The productivity strategy says: “Our ambition is simple – to double the size of the economy over 20 years. We have ambitious local plans that outline needs and opportunities for housing and economic growth. To accelerate our progress towards our ambition and vision, improving productivity is our collective focus.”

South Hams District Council’s executive were noting the progress report they made since it was established in March.

Cllr Julian Brazil questioned how realistic and achievable the plans to double the economy in the next 20 years really were.

He said: “We haven’t seen that kind of growth in my lifetime. It is ludicrous and rubbish, and if they follow these fairytale and fictitious views about the economy, it doesn’t give it any credence. They should be much more realistic and things like this doesn’t give me any confidence they will come up with anything of any use.”

Cllr John Tucker leader of South Hams, said it was a stretch target but gave the LEP something to aim for.

And Cllr Trevor Pennington said the economy has grown over the years and there is more employment than there has ever been.

The executive unanimously noted the progress report, agreed to delegate development and endorsement of the HotSW Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) to the HotSW Joint Committee, and said it had made a £1,400 annual budgetary provision for it.”

Source: Western Morning News

“Flybe ‘up for sale’ weeks after profit warning”

“Flybe is reported to have put itself up for sale less than a month after issuing a dramatic profit warning.

The regional airline is expected to say on Wednesday that its board is exploring a sale or a merger with a rival, according to Sky News.
Last month, the airline warned full-year losses would reach £22m due to a combination of falling consumer demand, a weaker pound and higher fuel costs.

The airline’s shares have fallen by almost 75% since September.

The Exeter-based airline is now valued at around £25m, far below the £215m it was valued at when it floated on the stock exchange in 2010.

Stobart Group – which pulled out of a bid to buy Flybe earlier this year after the airline rejected its offer – could be a possible purchaser, according to Sky.

Flybe, whose roots date back to 1979, has 78 planes operating from smaller airports such as London City, Southampton and Norwich to destinations in the UK and Europe.

It serves around eight million passengers a year, but has been struggling to recover from a costly IT overhaul and has been trying to reduce costs.
Last month, Flybe’s chief executive Christine Ourmieres-Widener said it was reviewing “further capacity and cost-saving measures”.

“Stronger cost discipline is starting to have a positive impact across the business, but we aim to do more in the coming months, particularly against the headwinds of currency and fuel costs,” she said at the time.

The airline is due to issue its interim results on Wednesday. The company declined to comment on the sale reports.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46203183

Local Enterprise Partnership – Partnership: Arise Wessex! Or maybe not …!

Below is a comment on an earlier post:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/09/16/greater-south-west-local-enterprise-partnership-partnership/

reprinted here as it raises some interesting questions, raised by David Daniel, who so eloquently spoke about the unrealistic expectations of our LEPs growth strategy to a largely uninformed and disinterested majority of Conservative councillors at DCC recently:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/11/30/watch-eda-councillor-shaw-and-budleigh-resident-david-daniel-make-most-sense-on-lep-strategy/

This now seems to be the THIRD such trial marriage of various south-west LEPs. None of them seem to be made in heaven ……….

“WESSEX here we come!

English devolution is a mess, whether it will evolve into anything sensible is uncertain.

A third of people living in England outside London live in one of England’s nine combined authorities, six being cities with directly elected mayors. These are corporate bodies formed of two or more local government areas to enable decision-making across boundaries on issues that extend beyond the interests of any one individual local authority, like strategic transport planning.

Our nearest is the West of England Combined Authority of: Bristol; North Somerset; Bath and North East Somerset; and South Gloucester. The Government has encouraged the creation of these structures in order to provide the economic scale needed for devolution. These are on the fast track.

County identities are medieval in origin but they continue to lurk in our consciences. We identify with them democratically and historically. The focus of the Coalition 2010 white paper that set devolution in progress was to create administrations based on economic functional areas rather than regions. This has set in train a conflict between perceived economic necessity and community identity and democracy. A few Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) followed county boundaries eg Cornwall and Scilly, and Dorset, but most did not. Some even overlapped.

Following on from the combined authorities, which are all centred on what one might describe as metropolitan areas, we are beginning to see the creation of new concepts by the combination of LEPs into “power” groupings such as the Council of the North, Midlands Engine, Oxbridge Corridor etc.

We now have the Great South West Partnership of: Heart of the South West (HotSW), Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, and Dorset LEPs. Or do we? The reason I add a question mark is because not very long ago (April to be exact) we had the Great South West Partnership comprising FOUR LEPs, including Swindon and Wiltshire “working together” to agree the next steps in implementing the recommendations of a report on Productivity. We were also told that GFirst (Gloucester) and West of England (Bristol) LEPs were also taking an active interest.

In his first interview on Somerset Live the new HotSW Chief Executive, David Ralph said “We’ve set a really big ambition about doubling the size of the economy in this area over the next 30 years.”

https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/everything-you-need-know-local-1872023

Previously the target had been to double the economy in 20 years. When I asked for clarification I was told it was a mis-speak, not a change of policy to something slightly more realistic.

So who knows where we are going?”

Stuff that “growth” – Devon, Dorset and Somerset best places to retire to!

Top 10 best places for retirement

Prudential analysed data in 55 counties in England and Wales to come up with its retirement ranking for 2016 (research lag).

West Sussex
Dorset
East Sussex
Isle of Wight
Norfolk
Devon
Worcestershire
Oxfordshire
Somerset
Shropshire

…”if you were looking to move to an area which has the highest number of similarly-aged denizens, Dorset is the place, with some 28% of the 422,000 people living in the county are aged over 65. …”

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/09/revealed-the-best-places-to-retire-in-england-and-wales/ – Which

Greater Exeter Strategic Plan: consultation about consultation and Skinner has a pet project other councils are ignoring

Correctiin: headline changed from Diviani to Skinner as it is assumed it is new Deputy Leader who wants a sports venue. Well, he is known to be a rugby fan!

“The vision is about to start to decide specific issues in October, with the aim to prepare a draft plan for consultation in the summer of 2019 after the local elections.” …

For the GESP area, 2,600 homes a year are needed, meaning over the 20 years of the plan to 2040, around 57,200 new homes will be built. …

[Here follows a masterpiece of shooting down Diviani’s idea for a “major sporting venue” ncely!]

“In previous discussions regarding the GESP, the Deputy Leader of East Devon District Council has put forward the idea of developing a regionally or nationally significant sports arena and concert venue within the GESP area.

The consultation does not specifically refer to this concept as work in understanding the need for such a facility and how it could be delivered are at an early stage as it is focusesd at high level issues and does not talk in any detail about specific proposals.

It is however considered that the consultation asks about public aspirations for the delivery of infrastructure thus enabling respondents to raise the opportunity for such a facility and make suggestions for what it would be. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/could-57000-new-homes-exeter-1948541

Is YOUR village on the EDDC list for expansion? And another east/west divide

East Devon District Council Strategic Planning Committee are going to discuss:

“Principles for accommodating the future growth needs of East Devon”

on 4 September 2018.

The Committee are being asked to endorse

“The proposed principles for growth” as the basis for future discussion and consultation on accommodating extra growth in the district.”

The document is described as the “start of the debate” for future East Devon growth points for both the GESP (The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan) and the East Devon Local Plan review, which is required to be updated within the next two years.

For the last few years East Devon District Council have achieved their own Local Plan agreed target of 950 dwellings per year. (EDDC Target is 17,100 dwellings between the years of 2013 to 2031).

Recently Central Government decided to calculate each District`s housing requirement targets on a set matrix. East Devon’s build out figure has been set to be 844 homes per year. However, the report suggests that rather than achieve the Government target of 844 new houses per year there is a proposal to build out much higher levels of growth.

The report explains that the objective of higher growth could be achieved by what is called a “Growth Deal” with Central Government where a group of Councils agree to build more housing in return for infrastructure investment from central funds.

This proposed “Growth Deal” is being prepared by the Councils of East Devon, Exeter, Teignbridge and Mid Devon through the “GESP” Greater Exeter Strategic Plan.

It is recognised that Exeter is unable to provide the housing land required to sustain the expected growth of the city, and the rural areas and towns in the rest of the combined area will be required to increase their housing requirements in exchange for the infrastructure improvements for access to and from the city of Exeter.

Improvements to the motorway junctions, new roads, extra park and rides, rail improvements, new stations and an integrated transport system are all identified as priority improvements to overcome the already chronic delays on Exeter`s transport network. There are also aspirations for a “sports hub and concert venue” for Greater Exeter to be included in the GESP infrastructure needs.

The report gives a brief synopsis of the towns in East Devon and concludes that other than the new town of Cranbrook there is limited scope for growth due to the various towns’ proximity to the AONB designated areas, or they are bordering on the coast or close to flood plains.

The conclusion from the report is that the existing towns will only accommodate minimal growth, and with two-thirds of East Devon being included in the AONB of the Pebblebed Heaths or the Blackdown Hills the only area that can accommodate substantial growth is within the North West part of the district.

The report describes this area as the Western most quadrant of this district to the North of Exmouth and West of Ottery St Mary. The land is described to benefit from being relatively flat with no landscape designations. It is also well served by main roads with good vehicle access via the M5, A30, A3052 and A376 and has good existing public transport links with the railway line and existing bus routes.

There are 3 possible ways described as to how development could be achieved in this area.

1. Establish a further new town. Basically, create another Cranbrook. However, the report considers that the creation of another new town in the area could harm the delivery of Cranbrook.

2. Establish a number of new villages. Create a series of modern Devon villages but the report considers that this option would be most damaging in landscape terms.

3. Centre Growth around Existing Villages.

Growth would be required to be substantial with around 400 to 500 extra homes to be added to a number of existing villages (The report does not state how many villages will be required within this area). However, this could harm the character of the village and the existing community.

The new NPPF acknowledges that:

“The supply of a large number of new homes can often be best achieved through planning for larger scale development such as new settlements or significant extensions to existing villages and towns, provided they are well located and designed, and supported by necessary infrastructure and facilities.”

A list of the Parishes within the expansion area for extra housing area

By referring to a map of the area these are the Parishes(villages) which are within the West of the district which could have development of between 400 to 500 extra dwellings, parishes identified could be:

Nether Exe
Rewe
Brampford Speke
Upton Pyne.
Stoke Canon ​

All these Villages are North of Exeter and access is by way of the A377 – which is not listed as one of the featured roads, so it is unlikely these will be included.

Broadclyst
Clyst Honiton
Sowton
Rockbeare
Wimple.​

These Villages are close to Cranbrook and therefore unlikely to be selected to avoid the villages and town merging.

Clyst Hydon
Clyst St Lawrence
Aylesbeare
Marsh Green

These Parishes are remote from a main road or railway station which probably eliminates them because of their unsustainable location.

Lympstone

This Village is already designated in the report to provide growth for Exmouth.

This leaves the following Parishes most likely to be included for further expansion in the proposals:

Poltimore
Huxham
Clyst St Mary
Clyst St George (includes the village of Ebford)
West Hill
Woodbury​ (includes the village of Woodbury Salterton and Exton)
Farringdon.

The “Principles for Growth” which the committee are being asked to agree to:

• A significant proportion of growth to be in the Western part of the district by either a new town or extending a number of villages or building new villages.

• Plus, modest growth in existing towns with strategic growth around Axminster, Exmouth (including Lympstone), Honiton and Ottery St Mary.

• All other Villages to be encouraged to provide modest growth through their Neighbourhood Plans.

• Focus development on main transport corridors if possible.

Conclusion:

For the last few years, East Devon has successfully complied with the government`s Housing Strategy, with their current Local Plan and at present build out rates, this will over subscribe the Government Building Target until the year 2031.

The Government is not forcing East Devon to co-operate with Exeter to provide some of their housing needs. This decision is totally at the discretion of the District Council and their leaders.

Yes, Exeter is a thriving growth city, and it is recognised that the road and rail connections are dire, but why destroy the character of a part of East Devon for these improvements?

The very reason people choose to relocate to Exeter, its surrounding towns and villages is the beautiful Devon countryside; the building of a mass of new housing will simply make the area a mirror image of the existing areas the people are wanting to move away from!

So, to satisfy the aspirations and needs of the City of Exeter, the rural west area of East Devon will be required to build many more houses with either another new town or new villages or building an extra 500 houses to a number of existing village communities.

Will the Strategic Planning Committee endorse this proposal or not?