The Thames Valley Berkshire LEP has commented on the EY report, which calls for an integrated growth strategy for the Thames Valley. The LEP responds:
The logic and ambition of EY’s study on the Thames Valley economy is sound. It chimes with many of the interventions set out in the extant Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) for Berkshire and with our emerging thinking on a Local Industrial Strategy (LIS). However, it does not put an economic value on an integrated growth strategy for the Thames Valley and this is where we believe the focus must be.
The study cites the work of LEPs and other partners but omits to mention the task set for LEPs and Combined Authorities in the Industrial Strategy White Paper – to lead the development of a LIS for their place.
This should not preclude the development of a LIS for a wider area or indeed a LIS that takes account of that place’s role in the wider geography. Indeed, at Thames Valley Berkshire LEP we believe that the scale and context in which an intervention is made, e.g. local, regional or sub/national, should determine the role of the LEP.
We must make a judgement on interventions according to their impact versus agility, i.e. what is the optimum intervention scale, LEP or cross-LEP and will a strategic partnership achieve more leverage and thus impact. If we felt or feel that the geography of our interventions is in any way hindering the performance of the economy, then a different approach must be adopted.
Top-level economic data, along with in-depth research help us to understand our place, recognise its strengths and weaknesses, and inform evidence-based interventions. EY’s report refers to the need to “create a more compelling investment proposition” and that’s why Thames Valley Berkshire LEP is a partner to three Science & Innovation Audits (SIA): Innovation South; Sustainable Airports (using Heathrow as a benchmark) and Transforming Technologies (centred on Oxford).
It’s also the case that several national issues dominate our economy, yet their cause and effect are complex and often intangible in a local context. We must and will look outside of our boundaries to forge relationships (sector and geographical) that will have a chance of making an impact rather than trying to deal with such issues locally. Examples of this are joint-LEP and local authority working as part of the Heathrow Strategic Planning Group, the SIAs mentioned above – Innovation South includes five LEPs – and ‘Transport for the South East’, which has just been awarded £1 million “to develop ambitious strategies to improve connectivity and drive economic growth”.
A LIS for Berkshire should provide leadership and a voice for our area, particularly when operating as part of a bigger geography. The engagement process to develop a LIS must secure buy-in from key partners and galvanise all around a common vison.
In leading this process for Thames Valley Berkshire, we will engage widely to achieve a LIS that helps drive the economy to new strengths. Our SEP, submitted to government in 2014, set a goal for 2021 of an uplift in GVA to £32.4 billion (at 2009 constant prices). In 2016, GVA was estimated to be £34.8b, which means the local economy has already exceeded – by some margin – its growth ambitions. If an integrated growth strategy for the Thames Valley can deliver more growth then it’s something that warrants further discussion, but it must be evidenced-based and have some value attached to it.