Chair's Blog - December 2018
The Government has this month confirmed the third and final wave of Local Industrial Strategies.
That’s good news for our region because it means we can get on with the job of honing the work the LEP and its partners have already done to set the future economic priorities for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Local Industrial Strategies are long term plans, based on evidence, to ensure places build on unique local strengths to realise economic potential, drive productivity and create quality jobs. They are aligned to the Government’s national Industrial Strategy, published a year ago.
The aim is that all areas of England should have a Local Industrial Strategy in place by early 2020. Some ‘trailblazer’ areas have already made a start and all remaining areas, including ours, have just been given the green light to get on with it too.
In practice that means working closely with Government and all our partners in business, local Government, education and the voluntary sector in 2019 to build a focused set of priorities for future investment that everyone can buy in to.
Local Industrial Strategies are important because they will be key to bringing together new ‘place-based’ funds, along with a wide range of other local and national funding streams across the Industrial Strategy, including any new Local Growth funding.
Crucially, they will inform how the Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund is allocated. This is the investment pot that will replace EU funding after 2020. Based on need, our area might have expected another £600m of EU investment after 2020 as England’s only Less Developed Region. So we continue to argue that the new fund should not leave Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly any worse off after Brexit, and that it should be needs-based rather than just a competitive bidding programme. The Government has promised to consult about the fund soon.
We’ve known about Local Industrial Strategies for more than a year which is why we published our 10 Opportunities prospectus in early 2018. This looks at different sectors and their potential to deliver economic growth and jobs, based on our area’s unique attributes including geography, skills and sector experience.
It’s not a perfect document, and we’ve had some stick for things we’ve left out, but it’s been generally very well received and importantly gives us a strong base to build on.
Over the coming months we will be gathering evidence and consulting widely to inform the strategy, making sure we build on specific strengths. Government has asked for clear priorities with a focus on a long-term vision, rather than a short-term bidding document.
Long term is fine, but now is important too. That’s why we are continuing to push for immediate investment in our space programme to deliver the UK’s first horizontal satellite launch facility at Newquay by 2020. This will complement the £8.4m Growth Deal investment we are making in Goonhilly Earth Station to enable deep space communications from Cornwall.
And we want to see more support for the potential of geothermal energy in Cornwall, beyond the groundbreaking demonstrator project currently underway at United Downs.
We are having encouraging discussions with Government about the potential for offshore floating wind power, tapping into our region’s global offshore marine energy experience, port infrastructure, natural capital (lots of wind out to sea) and test facilities like Wave Hub.
We are also promoting our creative industries, the fastest-growing sector of the UK economy, which has very specific needs and in our view warrants its own locally-based sector deal.
And we continue to make strategic investments using Local Growth funding, most recently £2m in dynamic new workspace in Newquay called C-Space, and £1 million to deploy electric vehicles and low carbon systems on the Isles of Scilly as part of the Smart Islands project.
Our immediate asks of Government are comparatively modest, but we think they could have a long-term transformational effect if, for example, we can establish the UK’s first commercial space operation, or prove the viability of deep geothermal energy, or develop a market for floating wind power in the Western Approaches.
People are important too. Our work to pilot a new Skills Advisory Panel over the last year has informed national policy and a nationwide roll-out confirmed this month, with each panel receiving £75,000 of Government funding. The panels are a new way of identifying and meeting the skills needs of businesses at a local level, and ours will be managed by the LEP’s Employment and Skills Board and be in place next year.
Our Cornwall Work and Health Beacon project, supported by £465,000 secured from the Government’s Work and Health Unit, was formally launched by Minister for Disabled People and Cornish MP Sarah Newton in September. This pathfinder project encourages and supports employers to take on and retain people with long term health conditions or disability, and is already being shaped with help from local businesses.
The skills agenda is hugely important to tackling business productivity and is a key plank of the national Industrial Strategy. One sector where the issue is acute is construction, which is why the LEP is working to deliver a construction strategy to ensure the sector has the home-grown capacity to take full advantage of future growth in our region.
In the next five years alone the industry in the South West will need almost 12,000 qualified construction staff, and half of those are in professional, technical and IT office-based positions. The sector already employs more than 25,000 people in Cornwall and Scilly, and is worth £876m a year to our economy. Look out for more on this in the New Year.
May I wish you all the very best for the festive season and we look forward to 2019 being a year in which Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly continues to forge ahead with energy, innovation and ambition.