Regional leaders set for productive first meeting

Leaders from across the Heart of the South West (HotSW) are set to agree a strategy to double productivity across the region when they meet next month.

The first ever HotSW Joint Committee meeting will be held on Friday 2 March at Plymouth City Council. It is open to the public and will be live streamed online. The committee will be the vehicle through which authorities and organisations across Somerset and Devon work together to improve productivity and continue to push for the devolution of additional funding and decision-making powers.

Top of the agenda for its first meeting will be agreeing the Productivity Strategy that has been taking shape over the last two years and appointing a chair and vice-chair of the new committee.

The Joint Committee is made up of Council Leaders and other lead representatives of county, unitary and district councils across Devon and Somerset along with Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, the Local Enterprise Partnership and local Clinical Commissioning Groups.

For well over two years these 23 organisations have been looking at ways to improve productivity across the area and work together to capitalise on opportunities presented by Government policy. Those opportunities include the potential devolution of additional funding and decision-making powers to the local level to help increase prosperity and productivity.

Leaders from these organisations have already had fruitful meetings with key civil servants and monthly meetings with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are in the pipeline, demonstrating the power of the partnership.

Leader of Somerset County Council, Councillor David Fothergill, who chaired the Joint Committee in shadow form in late 2017, said: “By working together we have already come a long way and this first meeting of the Joint Committee will be real milestone. The HotSW area is comparable to Birmingham in terms of the value of goods and services we produce and this partnership gives us a strong unified voice with which to speak to Government.

“Our overriding aim is to increase productivity and prosperity for all. This is a wonderful place to live and work and we all are very ambitious for what we can help it achieve.”

The Productivity Strategy aims to double productivity in the area over 20 years, focussing on themes including leadership, housing, connectivity, infrastructure, skills and training. It looks at growth, capitalising on the area’s distinctive assets and maximising the potential of digital technology.

Cllr Fothergill said: “We can do some of this ourselves but some aspects will need the support from Government which is why the Joint Committee is so important.”

Leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Ian Bowyer said: “This is about working together to create quality jobs for the region, to attract skilled people as well as nurture our own and ensuring there are great opportunities for people who live in this wonderful part of the country. We need to work together to make this happen.”

The meeting will also discuss a plan to deliver the Strategy as well as agreeing a statement of intent which sets out a policy for how the Committee will work with other authorities and partnerships.

Somerset County Council is acting as the host of the HotSW Joint Committee and meeting agendas and further information including the full Productivity Strategy can be found here

 The partners that make up the HotSW Joint Committee are: Dartmoor National Park Authority, Devon County Council, East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council, Exmoor National Park Authority, Mendip District Council, Mid Devon District Council, North Devon Council, Plymouth City Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset County Council, South Hams District Council, South Somerset District Council, Torbay Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Teignbridge District Council, Torridge District Council, West Devon Borough Council, West Somerset Council, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, and Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group.

The Leaders of the HotSW group is made up of representatives from these organisations and meets regularly to explore opportunities to work together to improve productivity and prosperity. The Joint Committee and devolution agenda is key to this work, but the remit and interest of the Leaders’ group is wider.