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South west seeks to boost productivity

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Councils seeking devolution in the south west are to devise a plan to improve the region’s lagging productivity rate.

Its first stage will see councils in the Heart of the South West area  - Devon and Somerset CCs, and unitaries Torbay BC and Plymouth City Council - consult on what factors have held back the region’s skill levels, enterprise, competiveness, and innovation, and ask how to turn these round. A final plan is due to be published in the autumn.

The consultation paper, Driving Productivity in the Heart of the South West, which is also backed by the Heart of the South West’s Local Enterprise Partnership, noted: “There is no quick fix to this challenge but the rewards are significant.

“If the gap between the existing UK productivity rate and the Heart of the South West was closed, every household in our area would be £11,500 better off per year, every year.”

The region’s devolution lead, Somerset CC leader John Osman (Con), said: “This is an opportunity to put this region at the heart of the government’s economic strategy. With the right investment and strategic lead from the devolution partnership, we believe it has the potential to become an internationally important business location.”

The councils involved are still seeking a devolution deal to a combined authority.

Fears that this will fail to match the needs of urban areas have led Exeter City Council, Plymouth, and Torbay to float the idea of an alternative deal based on the three of them, referred to locally as a ‘golden triangle’. 

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