Dorset is leading the way in campaigning to give the South West the same government investment as other economic regions in the country.
Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), together with Dorset West MP Sir Oliver Letwin, brought together the South West’s MPs and regional business, public sector and university leaders in a bid to put the ‘Great South West’ on the map.
Working with the Cornwall and Isle of Scilly LEP and the Heart of the South West LEP, the aim is to give the region the same footing as the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine.
In July a government review of LEPs said the partnerships played a crucial role in ‘supercharging’ economic growth and the delivery of its Industrial Strategy.
Chair of Dorset LEP, Jim Stewart, said: “This was an excellent opportunity for the three south west LEPs to meet with our MPs in Westminster and share our vision for the region with them.
“The South West economy is nationally significant and is larger than any combined authority – double the size of both Greater Manchester and West Midlands.
“Yet we are not receiving the same financial investment from the government as these regions.
“Our Great South West alliance of regional business leaders, academic heads and local authorities is determined to win backing for our plans that will put the region on the economic map. Dorset and the South West have a lot more to offer UK plc.”
Representatives from the three LEPs met with South West’s MPs at a meeting in Westminster arranged by Dorset LEP and Sir Oliver Letwin to launch Great South West.
The MPs received a presentation from Great South West, which set out the economic significance of the region.
In addition to having double the size economy of Greater Manchester and West Midlands, Great South West also contributes more to UK Gross Value Added than both Thames Gateway and Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor.
It also has a bigger productivity than both the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine but lags behind the English average.
When productivity in the South West matches current levels in the South East, the region will add more than £18 billion a year to the UK economy.
Sir Oliver Letwin said: “I am delighted that so many MPs and other stakeholders were able to attend the recent meeting at the House of Commons, organised by Great South West.
“This meeting provided a great opportunity for south west MPs to be properly briefed about this exciting proposition, which could grow to deliver a significant step-change in productivity for the south west.
“It is highly encouraging to see the diversity and number of stakeholders, even at this early stage – with Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities, universities, the CBI, Chambers of Commerce and many others all involved in the Great South West project.
“I hope that this project can continue to move forward with ever increasing momentum, and to help further realise the extraordinary economic potential of the south west.”
The South West is home to the single largest infrastructure project in Europe – the new Hinkley Point nuclear power plant in Somerset, which will generate billions of pounds worth of new business opportunities.
Tourism is a huge industry, with the region attracting more visitors than anywhere outside London.
The region is also home to the largest aerospace sector in the UK and has pioneering automotive, nuclear and marine renewables and microelectronics industries. It also has a growing creative and digital sector.
In Dorset alone we are one of 10 areas in the country to have an Integrated Care System and our creative technology sector is worth £363 million GVA.
A letter has now been sent to James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to seek formal government support and investment for Great South West.