You can see a PDF copy of the letter signed by many of the regions MPs here.
We are writing to you as MPs in the Heart of the South West LEP area to express our alarm over the provisional Growth Deal award communicated to the LEP and to strongly request that this allocation is increased significantly to mirror the potential for local impact that we all seek.
A number of us, and many stakeholders in the area, welcomed your comments at the recent SW Growth Summit; you recognised the historic under-investment in a region which you feel passionately about; productivity is the major economic challenge facing us; and the south west needs to think and act more cohesively to achieve its strategic goals. The LEP’s Growth Deal bid is a key component to addressing all these factors. And this is in addition to performing well against the key selection criteria set out by Greg Clark MP in his letter of April 2015 inviting bids to the £1.8 billion fund.
The LEP’s £109 million Growth Deal bid contained 26 projects, each project strong on its own merits and the whole programme making significant steps to addressing the historically low productivity of our area through:
- Productivity growth through science and innovation
- Productivity growth from strategic connectivity and sustainable transport
- Productivity growth through unlocking and enabling business potential
The bid generates an impressive £1bn additional GVA; 20,973 jobs, 224 business, 20,735 new homes and included investment in addressing issues around:
- Connectivity – e.g. improved superfast broadband, intra-LEP area transport and national transport links such as Plymouth Station
- High value sectors – e.g. iAero and advanced engineering around Yeovil and high tech marine in Plymouth
- Skills – e.g. enabling local people to access high value jobs in sectors such as photonics
The £15-20 million provisional allocation leaves the LEP in an impossible position to make the investments needed to grow our local economy. At a time of increasing economic uncertainty, it is important that we are leading investment in our economy which will support the south west and the UK to continue to grow in the challenging times ahead. As it is, the provisional allocation leaves the LEP only able to fund at most the first four projects from the original bid.
Whilst these are significant in their own right, the provisional award means other strategically important investments such as transport interventions at Houghton Barton, Taunton Toneway and Plymouth Station, the critical iAero centre or access to the Enterprise Zone at Huntspill Somerset will not receive funding; thereby postponing, reducing or even removing the significant impact that each of these projects can have on the local and national economy.
Our population size would indicate a pro-rata allocation of circa £45 – £50 million out of the £1.8 billion in the fund, which would enable us to deliver not just the top four projects but the next 7 critical projects in the bid, all of which deliver improved infrastructure, skills and productivity. If the deal was based on our number of businesses – 83,000 – a pro rata allocation would be £60 million. These investments would have built on the rich seam of untapped economic opportunity in the Heart of the South West and provided clear evidence of this administration’s commitment to making an impact in all parts of our economy – and not just in the major cities of the midlands or north.
We have been closely monitoring the work local government, the LEP and other partners are undertaking to new ways of working. This joined up approach is evident in both the devolution work to date, the commitment to addressing productivity and the work the LEP is separately undertaking with Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly and Dorset LEPs to coordinate approaches to key strategic issues. This latter work means the south west begins to have the sort of focus of a Midlands Engine or Northern Powerhouse, areas which we note are attracting significant levels of investment not replicated in the South West.
We understand that the initial offer is subject to discussion and urge you to underpin the good progress partners are making with a Growth Deal award commensurate with its size of the LEP area and the opportunity it presents for growth.
We feel very strongly that a meeting with you and Devon and Somerset MPs ahead of the autumn statement to discuss the issues laid out in this letter would be very helpful.
Johnny Mercer MP