Report of the Head of Economy, Enterprise and Skills (EES/17/5), attached.
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.
RESOLVED that 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.