Council Leader – “Give us the means and we will deliver.”

County HallCounty Hall

Posted on: 20 October 2017

Devon County Council leader John Hart was one of more than 300 civic and business leaders at the South West Growth Summit in Exeter today (Friday 20 October).

Here, he gives his thoughts on the way forward for the South West to improve its economy and the prospects of its residents.

“Those of us lucky enough to live and work in the south west know what a very special place it is. But it could be even better.

“Our economy, already improving in key areas, could be stronger. Our productivity, which is far too low, needs to be much better.

“These key improvements would see wages rise and enable people living here to have a better standard of living.

“But to achieve them so much needs to happen. And key to many of these developments is a will on the part of government to invest.

“We’re not holding out a begging bowl to Westminster. The entrepreneurial spirit in the South West is well evident and we have a higher percentage of self-employed than most areas.

“We have always had the capacity to help ourselves. But we need the tools to do that more effectively and that means a fairer share of the resources available for our services and infrastructure.

“The South West has a much higher proportion of people over 65 and people over 85 and both our NHS and social care services need funding that recognises that and the added cost of delivering care in people’s homes in rural areas.

“In infrastructure we need better roads, including a proper alternative to the M5, better and more resilient rail links, particularly from Exeter to the rest of the peninsula, and faster and more reliable broadband.

“The South West has always lost out to other regions on investment. Sometimes that’s because local authorities’ first response had been to get on and tackle their own problems.

“But it is also because we have not always demonstrated a united voice to Government. That’s changing and, over my years in politics, I now feel a much greater desire on the part of local government leaders – across political parties and across the South West – to work together with their chief executives and alongside business to speak with one voice to those in power in Westminster and Whitehall.

“For too long we have allowed local and regional differences to get in the way of effective lobbying, ignoring what brings us together when we have common cause. Whilst there will still be times when we want locally to do our own thing, much of the time we want to and indeed are working together for the greater good of the South West.

“Our country is facing unprecedented change over the next few years and, no matter which side of the Brexit argument we were on, we all need to work together to grasp the opportunities it will present and mitigate the problems it will cause.

“Local government stands ready to facilitate and, where we can, invest in the infrastructure that will allow existing businesses to expand and new companies to form and create the jobs for our people.

“In Devon the multi-million pound investment in the Kingskerswell by-pass that provides a full dual carriageway between Torbay and Exeter has done much to boost the economy. That resulted from a partnership between Devon County, Torbay and Teignbridge councils alongside the Government. There are similar success stories across the region.

“The will is there. We are saying: “Give us the means and we will deliver.”

Posted in: Business and Economy | Politics