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We are travelling further afield to work, as a result, the economic footprint of our cities and towns is becoming larger – and some are disappearing. Based upon the information we gave during the census, the ONS have used an algorithm, to map the ever changing pattern of where we live and where we work, to create our “real economic geography”. Bringing people together in workplaces and business districts enhances productivity and drives growth, the so called “agglomeration effects”. Exeter has clearly boomed, it has swallowed Tiverton and Okehampton. Newton Abbot is defined as being closely associated with Exeter, the major driver of our local employment.
Local council boundaries with names like ‘Teignbridge’ or the Local Enterprise Partnership’s ‘Heart of the South West’ show little synergy with what’s happening on the ground. County boundaries become blurred, which will challenge strategic planning as different bodies have conflicting political interests.
In January this year at Plymouth, George Osborne detailed his Conservatives economic plan for the south west covering the period 2015-2020. You can read his speech here.
The areas he details for growth and improved productivity are, transport connectivity, digital connectivity, defence industries, cyber security services, life sciences, agricultural science and tourism.
But how is all this to be delivered?
The geographic counties covered by the South West Plan are Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Bristol & Avon, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. It is within this geographic context that Osborne’s strategy and growth budgets have their diverse business threads.
The six south west Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s) cover the south west region, as do our members of the European Parliament (MEP’s). It is the recognised EU area for European Structural and Investment awards, another important source of growth investment money. In addition the south west region has 55 constituency MP’s at Westminster, of which Newton Abbot MP is one.
The government has announced the combined 2014/15 Growth Fund allocations for South West LEP’s;-
Cornwall and the Isles if Scilly LEP £60.2
Dorset LEP £79.0
Gloucestershire LEP £77.5
Heart of the South West LEP
(Devon, including Torbay, Plymouth & Somerset.) £195.5
Swindon and Wiltshire LEP £140.8
West of England LEP (Bristol and Avon) £230.7
The Heart of the South West LEP will share the £195.5 million pool based upon successful proposals.
The key £7.2 billion of investment (announced by the Chancellor before the general election) includes the promised rail network upgrade and road improvements to London. The government now says it will delay or cut back a number of modernisation projects planned for Network Rail, but promises the Great Western main line upgrade will go ahead. Permanent protection for our coastal rail-line from winter storms is not included.
The roll out of fast broadband which also helps business start-ups is also behind schedule in Devon and Somerset.
The gap between political rhetoric – some of it gushing - and delay in delivery, would make a difficult task of growing a balanced economy even harder. Growth rates are falling around the world and are expected to be lower in future - than those previously experienced before the financial crisis. World trade levels, the driver of growth, remain suppressed.
With the result of the Labour leadership election being announced in the near future, this is the last of this series of blogs. Like you, I await to see what the next political trend will be.