Joint Committee puts productivity first

Representatives from 23 organisations across Devon and Somerset today agreed steps to drive up productivity at the first meeting of the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Joint Committee.

The inaugural meeting of the Joint Committee unanimously endorsed the Productivity Strategy that has been taking shape over the last two years and aims to double productivity over 20 years.

At the meeting in Plymouth City Council offices, the committee also voted unanimously to appoint Councillor David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council, as the first Chair of the new committee and Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, as the Vice Chair.

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.

Cllr Fothergill said: “The overriding aim of this new Committee is to increase productivity and prosperity for all, guided by the Strategy we’ve agreed today.”

“We have big ambitions for what this committee can do for the area and I am honoured to have been made its first Chair. I believe we have already seen the power that comes with partnership and we are having constructive discussions with Government.”

Cllr Diviani added: “This is a very diverse group but we have common ambitions and priorities. The Heart of the South West area has tremendous potential and that’s what we want to realise because it will mean better jobs, better wages and stronger businesses and public services and help us make sure we have the skills to succeed.”

The Committee will be the vehicle through which authorities and organisations across Somerset and Devon work together to improve productivity and continue to work with government under the devolution and other government policy agendas to push for freedoms and flexibilities and possibly additional funding to enable the partnership to achieve its goals.

It’s the result of more than two years of work looking at ways to improve productivity and work together to capitalise on opportunities presented by Government policy.

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.

The Productivity Strategy aims to double productivity in the area over 20 years, focussing on themes including promoting business 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 added: “Between us we have the ability to achieve much of this, but some aspects will need the support from Government which is why the Joint Committee is so important.

“The Devon and Somerset economy is valued at around £35bn per annum and which is comparable to Birmingham. This committee will give it the voice it deserves.”

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 Joint Committee’s meetings are open to the public and will be live streamed online.

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.