Devon/Somerset devolution: DCC Tories and Labour votes Yes on deal that scrutiny committee savaged

From the blog of EDA Councillor Martin Shaw:

“Most Labour members joined the Conservative majority on Thursday in voting down my amendment for the County Council to revisit its controversial ‘devolution’ proposals to join Devon with Somerset in the so-called Heart of the South West, first in a formal Joint Committee and then (envisaged but not proposed at this stage) in a Combined Authority. I argued that the proposals for an extra layer of bureaucracy have no democratic consent – they were not even in the Conservatives’ Devon manifesto last May.

I argued that we were being asked to support ‘a regional economic strategy that doesn’t add up to a government which doesn’t know what it’s doing about devolution, and for this we’re prepared to enter a half-baked new constitutional arrangement which will probably have to be scrapped as soon as a more rational government devolution policy is devised.’

Six of Labour’s Exeter members followed the line of Exeter City Council which is joining the Tory-run County and district councils in supporting the current devolution proposals (one abstained). They believe that Exeter’s economy will gain from the (currently unknown) amount of money the devolution bid will gain from government (which of course will be giving back a small proportion of the money it is currently taking from services). I argued that the plan does not have a viable economic strategy behind it, and that rural, coastal and small-town Devon stands to gain virtually nothing from it.

Liberal Democrat and Green councillors joined Independents in voting for my amendment. The webcast will be available here:”

Labour joins Tories at Devon County Council to support joint ‘devolution’ with Somerset, against Independent, Lib Dem and Green opposition

Hinkley C gets its own posh hotel thanks to OUR LEP

Anyone know of any hotel that got LEP funding in Devon? Seaton, Honiton Premier Inns perhaps? Certainly not!

From an LEP report:

“In October Deepak Chainrai of DC Hotels (Bridgwater) Ltd welcomed representatives from HotSW LEP, Bridgwater Town Council and Sedgemoor District Council to the site of the new Mercure Bridgwater Hotel, which is visibly taking shape, as an opportunity for all to see the work and progress behind the construction hoarding.

Before touring all five floors, the group was shown around the lobby area, meeting rooms, lounge and bar, leading to the destination restaurant that will be operated by The Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill.

The new hotel was partly financed by a loan from the LEP’s Growing Places Fund, which aims to get projects off the ground that would otherwise not be immediately served by the commercial marketplace. The site is strategically placed as an asset for the area with the development of the nearby Hinkley Point C. The establishment of a modern hotel with an international restaurant chain and commercial units is an important amenity that will boost the local economy and generate new jobs.”

HOTSW Growth Strategy: stymied by exodus of young from small towns

Devon: 47 towns, 2 cities (Exeter and Plymouth)
Somerset: 29 towns, no cities
2 mins read:

“The emptying out of young people from Britain’s small towns has accelerated over the past two decades, as the gap widens between the country’s cities and university towns and everywhere else.

New research shows that, since 1981, Britain’s towns and villages have lost more than a million people aged under 25, while gaining more than 2m over-65s.

By contrast, main cities have seen net inflows of more than 300,000 under-25s and net outflows of 200,000 over-65s.

Centre for Towns, a new think-tank set up to draw attention to the plight of smaller communities, whose millions of residents are frequently ignored in policy debates, said the trend has accelerated sharply since the millenium.

In 1981, the proportion of over-65s was similar across communities of all sizes, ranging from a low of 23 over-65s for every 100 working-age residents to a high of 26.3 in villages.

By 2001, the signs of demographic sorting had begun to emerge, with an old-age ratio of 22.5 in large cities, and 29.1 in villages; in 2011, there were 35.6 over-65s for every 100 people of working age in Britain’s villages — double the figure of 19 in large cities.

The changing demographics of small towns have seen their labour markets become less dynamic, while a growing elderly population puts strains on health and social care.

The divide was evident in the voting for the 2016 EU referendum. Centre for Towns calculated what share of the vote went to Leave and Remain in different sizes and types of towns and cities, and a clear gradient runs through from the large cities, university towns and commuter towns which delivered the strongest Remain votes, to smaller towns — especially those still suffering from post-industrial decline, and stagnating coastal towns such as Blackpool.

New polling carried out by Centre for Towns also provides a quantitative measure of the quality of life being left behind. Britain’s town-dwellers feel more socially, economically and politically peripheral than those who live in cities, and are more pessimistic about whether their areas’ fortunes will be reversed soon.

Among town-dwellers, 69 per cent feel their towns are being left-behind, believing the area they live in is less central to British society than other areas. Similarly, 68 per cent believe politicians do not care about their town. In cities, the corresponding figures are much lower, at 56 and 54 per cent.

A similar gap is evident in perceptions of communities’ economic strength. Of town-dwellers, 53 per cent feel their area is less well-off than other parts of the country, compared to just 36 per cent in cities.”

DCC Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee savages HOTSW Growth Strategy

(Thanks to Independent East Devon Alliance DCC Councillor Martin Shaw for bringing to the committee 10 of the 11 points and Budleigh resident David Daniel for his succinct 3 minute take-down of the original document)

Heart of the South West Joint Committee and Draft Productivity Strategy (Cabinet Minute 77/8 November 2017)

Minute 31:

“The Committee received the Joint Report of the Head of Economy, Enterprise and Skills and the Head of Organisational Development (EES/17/5) providing information on the Heart of the South West Joint Committee and the draft Productivity Strategy, which was currently being consulted on and which highlighted a number of challenges facing the Heart of the South West area.

The consultation period had been extended to 14 December 2017 and an Action Plan would be shared with the Committee at a future meeting.


the Committee note the work to develop a Joint Committee and that, to enable a bid for devolved powers and funds to be successful, revisions were suggested to be made to the Heart of the South West Productivity Strategy, taking the following comments into account, namely:-

(a) the ambition to double the size of the economy in 18 years, involving an annual growth rate of 3.94%, was unrealistic given that the regional annual rate over the last 18 years had been 1.5% and the national growth rate, which had not exceeded 3% in a single year during that period, was now forecast to average less than 1.5% per annum in the next five years;

(b) the early ambitious aim of moving from less than average to above average productivity was not credible since the Strategy lacked the wide range of specific proposals needed to raise productivity across the board and contained little detail on how gaps in higher skills level would be filled;

(c) the Strategy did not adequately address the obstacles to higher than average productivity in sectors with endemic low pay and casual working, like social care and hospitality, which were disproportionately represented in the local economy, by our older than average population, and by under-employment;

(d) the Strategy said little about rural Devon and needed to include the key recommendations of the South West Rural Productivity Commission;

(e) the Strategy did not emphasise sufficiently the shortfall in broadband provision and the radical investment needed if Devon were not to fall further behind other regions;

(f) the Strategy did not provide details of the opportunities of Brexit, which it mentioned, nor did it take account of risks such as a decline in investment due to uncertainty, issues for firms exporting to Europe if the UK was not part of a customs union, and threats to the knowledge element of our economy due to universities losing EU staff and research opportunities;

(g) the Strategy needed to show how Devon would respond to automation and Artificial Intelligence;

(h) the Strategy needed to indicate clear performance indicators through which success could be measured;

(i) the Strategy needed to align more explicitly with the Government’s new Industrial Strategy and ‘Sector deals’ which may provide funding;

(j) the Strategy needed to explain what kind of devolution would help meet aspirations and articulate clear, realistic selling points and questions of Government; and

(k) the Strategy needed to include proposals to bring forward all forms of transport, including rail, which improved accessibility to the Peninsular.”

Watch EDA councillor Shaw and Budleigh resident David Daniel make most sense on LEP “strategy”

Jump to 2 hours into the meeting to see these two local people talk total sense to a bunch of mostly Tory councillors most of whom seem to understand beggar-all about why they are there!

Mr Daniel – a former government strategic analyst is at around 15 minutes into the meeting and speaks persuasively about why the Heart of the South West LEP strategy is totally unachievable. Independent East Devon Alliance DCC Councillor Martin Shaw (whose forensic report was totally accepted with one additional point added) is at around 2 hours into the meeting speaking on why the report before the councillors is style over substance and dangerous to go along with in its current form.

In Owl’s opinion, they run rings around the rest of the committee!

Although one councillor did make a point (Owl is paraphrasing here!} that this is an 18 year “strategy” and could well be redundant in a few years – when some other crazy idea might replace it!

More bad news for ineffective Local Enterprise Partnerships!

The Industrial Strategy is also offering what it calls “Sector Deals”. Partnerships between Government and groups of industries and businesses focussed on specific industrial sectors such as Nuclear Power.

To unlock Government money here are the sort of things Government will require (page 210):

“Deal proposals should have a demonstrable and analytically rigorous impact on the productivity and earning power of the sector.

We expect credible analysis of the impact of any proposals to accompany each specific proposal showing expected increase in GVA, employment or increases in skilled workers, exports or specific investments (including foreign direct investment) resulting from the deal. Tangible commitments are likely to be the most convincing.

Sector Deal proposals need to be realistic and achievable. We are looking for evidence that industry commitments can be delivered and that clear governance arrangements will be set up. Any arrangements should be proportionate to the scale of ambition of the deal itself and designed to ensure commitments will endure. To be credible, deal proposals should include specific delivery plans covering each component of the proposal.”

Demonstrable and analytically rigorous impact on productivity; credible analysis; tangible commitments; realistic and achievable proposals; clear governance: specific delivery plans …

HotSW, our LEP, is going to have to up its game or we shall lose out on each and every one of these.

Government industrial strategy: Local Enterprise Partnerships have to pull up their socks

Unfortunately, we have heard this all before – words do not seem to get translated into actions:

Page 223:

“… We remain firmly committed to Local Enterprise Partnerships. From next year, the Prime Minister will chair a biannual ‘Council of Local Enterprise Partnership Chairs’. This will provide an opportunity for Local Enterprise Partnership leaders to inform national policy decisions.

While Local Enterprise Partnerships across the country have played an important role in supporting local growth, feedback suggests that their performance has varied.

We are reviewing the roles and responsibilities of Local Enterprise Partnerships and will bring forward reforms to leadership, governance, accountability, financial reporting and geographical boundaries. We will work with Local Enterprise Partnerships to set out a more clearly defined set of activities and objectives in early 2018. These will be driven by influential local leaders, acting as figureheads for their area’s economic success, and a clear strategy for local and national partnership.

We will agree and implement appropriate structures for holding Local Enterprise Partnerships to account. We will work with Local Enterprise Partnerships to review overlapping geographies and ensure people are clear as to who is responsible for driving growth in their area. We recognise that in order to deliver their role effectively, Local Enterprise Partnerships need financial support. We will make additional financial resources available to Local Enterprise Partnerships that demonstrate ambitious levels of reform following the review. …”