The South West's biggest employer has called for the region to be included in government plans for levelling up the economy and demanded a "green jobs boom” to stop the brain drain of talented young people moving out of the South West.
On the eve of the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Pennon, owner of South West water, has published a report called Levelling Up the Great South West: A G7 Legacy on behalf of the Great South West project.
Concerns have been raised across the South West that the region will be overlooked for many of the benefits proposed in the levelling up agenda in favour of areas in the North and Midlands. The recommednations in Pennon's report are:
- Transform levelling up into an integrated national project, with economic growth plans for every British region incorporated into a central framework. These plans should be delivered by regional leaders with regional accountability.
- Establish a Transport for the South West body with similar powers to Transport for the North, able to champion transport infrastructure projects across the region.
- Deliver ultra-fast South West 5G mobile, fibre and wireless broadband through to 90% of the population by 2030.
- Expand the now-doubled public RD&I budget in every British region, prioritising the South West’s portion in the advanced manufacturing and environmental science clusters.
- Commit to opening up more science and technology pathways for students in higher and further education.
The report highlights areas of economic weakness in the South West -- specifically in Devon and Cornwall -- such as low productivity, falling numbers of the working age population and high levels of empty shops. However, it is optimistic about the region's future. The report states: "The combination of the natural environment and environmental science specialisms in the region means Devon, Cornwall and the wider South West could set its sights on becoming Britain’s greenest regional economy, turning global concerns over sustainability into locally-led economic growth."
Susan Davy, CEO of Pennon, said: “Our region faces big challenges, but the South West’s potential is huge. We can point the way to a high-tech, high-growth, green British future, turning global concerns over sustainability into locally-led economic growth. With expertise in advanced manufacturing, an innovative agri-food sector and some of the best tourist destinations in the country, the Great South West has huge potential just waiting to be fulfilled."