Tim Bowles, West of England mayor, and Professor Steve West, interim chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership, have drafted a strategy for driving economic growth in the region over the next four years.
The strategy, which is the result of conversations with council partners, businesses, universities and colleges, and housing and transport providers, is geared towards promoting more job opportunities, a stronger economy and a higher quality of life.
The area’s economy, with a population of over 1 million people and over 43,000 businesses, is currently worth £31 billion a year and its growth has exceeded the national average over the past 15 years.
The document highlights reasons for this such as Bristol’s connections with the rest of the UK and Europe which, alongside a highly skilled workforce and expertise in sectors like aerospace, help the city compete nationally and internationally.
But it also acknowledges important challenges to the region’s future success including transport and housing infrastructure, poverty and inequality, skills shortages, the variable speed and connectivity of broadband, the imperative of climate change, and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
The mayor’s priorities, outlined in the draft strategy, are to build on the region’s existing strengths as a leader in innovation, high tech and creativity, while continuing to nurture successful businesses.
Equally, he wants to ensure that people living in the West of England have the right skills for regional businesses, and that the foundations are in place to build affordable homes, improve public transport, and boost digital connectivity.
Professor Steve West, interim chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), commented, “This is our chance to get serious about how we work together to promote the unique benefits of our fantastic region… We have world-class universities, industry and healthcare sectors and we need to build on our significant heritage and strengths.”
The draft strategy is available on the West of England Combined Authority website where there is also an online questionnaire to provide feedback.
Businesses, organisations and others are encouraged to give their views, which will be incorporated into a final strategy to be published in the autumn, and used to inform the West of England Combined Authority’s more detailed plans, priorities and funding decisions.
Photo credit: Barbara Evripidou