The Heart of the South Local Enterprise Partnership is currently consulting on its document entitled ‘Stepping up to the Challenge.’ This is a draft Productivity Strategy for the counties of Devon and Somerset. Our area compares unfavourably with most in the county in terms of the volume of the work achieved, per hour, spend on innovation, number of companies which export and overall how competitive our economy is. The strategy aims to double the size of the local economy by 2030 and improve our relative performance.
And why is this important? At the moment this area suffers from low wages despite high employment levels, Government investment is far lower than elsewhere and for many young people there are not the career opportunities they seek.
Members of Devon Chamber of Commerce met with the Local Enterprise Partnership to discuss and input in the Strategy (consultation closes on the 14 December – give your views via www.torbay.gov.uk/devolution). There was one unanimous conclusion that Chamber members came to, in providing their input, and that was the need to see improved broadband and mobile telecom provision across the county. All businesses will increasingly need to embrace the digital economy and have communications wherever they are: in the office, in the factory or on the move. Therefore access to superfast broadband at a price that be affordable is considered essential. The existence of significant telecom ‘Not Spots’ in areas in the county along key communication routes are felt to be totally unacceptable in 2017 far less 2030. Chamber members made many other suggestions but the key issue at the root of all issues were first class broadband and telecommunications.