Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership

As DCC is asked to approve a new layer of bureaucracy for ‘devolution’, its Scrutiny Committee says productivity strategy on which project is based is ‘unrealistic’

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hotswlep-mapDevon County Council will be asked on Thursday to approve the setting up a ‘Joint Committee for the Heart of the South West’, which is the first step towards setting up a full Combined Authority of the Devon and Somerset county, unitary and district councils. The purpose is negotiate a ‘devolution’ deal with the Government to promote economic growth, under which some powers and limited funding (far less than the amounts being taken away by the Government from Council funding for services) will be made available.

This new layer of bureaucracy will be made up of two leading members of each council, so that its composition will be almost entirely Conservative. This is going ahead although most people in Devon and Somerset don’t even know they live in something called the ‘Heart of the South West’. The Devon-Somerset link-up (rather than with Cornwall or Dorset) is driven by the Hinkley C nuclear white elephant, the grossly expensive project for a new nuclear power station of unproven type, with huge UK public subsidies to companies owned by the French and Chinese states.

The ‘devolution’ bid will be based on a ‘productivity strategy’ drawn up by the Heart of the South West Local Economic Partnership, a quango dominated by business interests (some of them with Hinkley connections). However last Tuesday, DCC’s Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee approved the following comprehensive criticisms of the ‘strategy’ (which I proposed), branding its main aim ‘unrealistic’:

The Committee notes the work to develop a Joint Committee, but believes that the revisions to the Heart of the South West Productivity Strategy will be needed if a bid for devolved powers and funds is to be successful:

    1. The ambition to double the size of the economy in 18 years, involving an annual growth rate of 3.94%, is unrealistic given that the regional annual rate over the last 18 years has been 1.5% and the national growth rate, which has not exceeded 3% in a single year during that period, is now forecast to average less than 1.5% p.a. in the next five years.
    2. The very ambitious aim of moving from less-than-average to above-average productivity is not credible since the Strategy lacks the wide range of specific proposals needed to raise productivity across the board and contains little detail on how gaps in higher skills levels will be filled.
    3. The Strategy does 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 are disproportionately represented in the local economy; by our older-than-average population; and by underemployment.
    4. The Strategy says little about rural Devon, and needs to include the key recommendations of the South West Rural Productivity Commission.
    5. The Strategy does not emphasise sufficiently the shortfall in broadband provision and the radical investment needed if we are not to fall further behind other regions.
    6. The Strategy does not provide details of the opportunities of Brexit which it mentions, nor does it take account of risks such as a decline in investment due to uncertainty; issues for firms exporting to Europe if the UK is not part of a customs union; and threats to the knowledge element of our economy due to our universities losing EU staff and research opportunities.
    7. The Strategy needs to show how we will respond to automation and Artificial Intelligence.
    8. The Strategy needs to indicate clear performance indicators through which we will measure its success.
    9. The Strategy needs to align more explicitly with the Government’s new Industrial Strategy and ‘sector deals’ which may provide funding.
    10. The Strategy needs to explain what kind of devolution will help us meet our aspirations and articulate clear, realistic selling-points and asks of Government.
    11. The Strategy needs to include more specific proposals for transport links, including rail and other public transport. [wording of this point to be confirmed]

 

 

 

‘Devolution’ threat to local democracy – sign the petition

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South Devon Watch: Petitioning devon county council 

          Stop the ‘unlawful’ devolution process

          in Devon and Somerset

  • The so called Devolution process taking place in Devon and Somerset right now, is an totally undemocratic and possibly unlawful transfer of power from local authorities to a quango of unelected and unaccountable business people called the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.
  • Their meetings are held in secret and their minutes are not published.  They control £4 billion worth of grants from the government and the EU and have spent millions on Hinkley C power station.  These are the people, nearly all property developers and construction CEOs who are writing the devolution bid for Devon and Somerset.  Whilst local councils have their budgets slashed to a point they can barely function, the LEP enables enormous construction projects and is pushing for the building of 179,000 new homes, which are not affordable.
  • Local people are being shut out of decision making processes altogether while the responsibility for care homes, roads and house building is passed over to this opaque and remote quango, whose only goal is growth at the expense of everything else.

          Sign the petition here