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South West Water says now is the time to create a “green jobs” G7 legacy

09th June 2021
  • Pennon report on behalf of the Great South West shows Devon and Cornwall need “levelling up” just as much as the so-called “Red Wall”
  • South West has lowest levels of productivity in UK

Pennon, the South West’s biggest employer and parent company of South West Water, has written a report on behalf of the Great South West calling for the region not to be overlooked in the Government’s plans to level up the country. The report demands a “green jobs boom” to stop the brain drain of talented young people leaving the region.

The call comes in a report timed to coincide with the G7 summit being held in St Ives later this week, which looks at the economic challenges and opportunities facing our region.

The report, Levelling Up the Great South West: A G7 Legacy, analyses every parliamentary constituency in Devon and Cornwall and says that they deserve as much political attention as those in the electoral battleground of the so-called “Red Wall” in the North of England and Midlands.

The new ‘levelling up analysis’ in Pennon’s Great South West report finds that:

  • Devon and Cornwall trail the rest of the UK in terms of productivity – Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has the lowest productivity of any UK subregion, and Devon is the seventh lowest productivity area in the UK.
  • On a ranking of all parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales by productivity, 13 out of 18 Devon and Cornwall constituencies are in the lowest third, with St Ives, Torridge & West Devon, South East Cornwall, North Cornwall and Torbay in the bottom 25 in the whole of England and Wales.
  • The working age population of the region is declining as a share of the total, with an exodus of young people to larger urban areas, especially London. 70% of 15-17 year olds in Cornwall say they will need to leave the county in order to obtain a good job.
  • Many parts of the region have high levels of empty shops, a key indicator of the health of the high street, reflecting low spending levels and lack of investment. In Camborne & Redruth the rate of empty shops is 38% higher than the England and Wales average, in Torbay it is 30% higher, and in Plymouth, Sutton & Devonport it is 43% higher.

The new figures point to some of the biggest economic challenges facing England’s two most south-westerly counties. Yet the report says that with the right investment and support the Great South West has huge potential too. The combination of the natural environment and environmental science specialisms in the region means Devon, Cornwall and the wider South West could set its sights on becoming Britain’s greenest regional economy, turning global concerns over sustainability into locally-led economic growth.

It recommends that every British region, including the South West, have an economic growth plan delivered by regional leaders with regional accountability; a Transport for the South West body which can champion regional transport infrastructure projects; the delivery of ultra-fast broadband across the region; more investment in Research and Development in the South West’s advanced manufacturing and environmental science clusters; and more STEM pathways for students in further and higher education in the region.

Susan Davy, CEO of Pennon, said: “Our region faces big challenges, but the South West’s potential is huge. We can point the way to a high-tech, high-growth, green British future, turning global concerns over sustainability into locally-led economic growth. With expertise in advanced manufacturing, an innovative agri-food sector and some of the best tourist destinations in the country, the Great South West has huge potential just waiting to be fulfilled.

“South West Water is making its own contribution to this with its Green Recovery Initiative, supporting the creation of up to 500 additional jobs over the next four years and taking extra action on the most pressing environmental issues that our customers tell us they care about most .We need to encourage more private investment into the region and we can do that by working closely with Government on a levelling up plan for the whole of the South West.”

Sir Gary Streeter MP, Chair of the All-Party Group for the South West and MP for South West Devon, said: “I congratulate the authors of this report which demonstrates that Devon and Cornwall must be considered prime territory for levelling up investment especially into our transport systems and digital connectivity. The government would certainly get an immediate and substantial return on its investment.”

For further information please contact:

Jack Hutchison at WPI Strategy on 07530564482