Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement marks the first major economic statement of the new Government since the Brexit vote and, in the Solent area, the Solent LEP is monitoring progress for the local economy to understand the local impact of national spending decisions, new Government policy and the Brexit vote.
Brexit has shifted the economic landscape of the UK economy, bringing uncertainty across a range of issues, not least the position the UK will take with the EU once article 50 has been triggered and the UK formally splits from the EU.
Latest local forecasts in the Solent suggest growth and jobs will continue to be driven by service-orientated sectors such as professional, scientific and technical activities; and information and communications.
Growth and jobs forecast for most regions in the UK, including the South East, have been revised down, though the Solent LEP still expect the South East to grow faster than the UK average, creating an additional 470,000 jobs by 2036. However, the economy is predicted to continue to grow broadly in line with national averages, with GVA growth expected at 2%pa to 2036.
The Solent LEP would like to see an upturn in economic performance and it is the LEP’s ambition to see the Solent grow rapidly and to continue to make a significant contribution to the economic output of the region and the country as a whole.
To achieve this, the area will need to concentrate its economic activity into what it does best by developing its specialist sectors, where the Solent has a comparative advantage such as in Marine and Maritime, and through developing the SME base in the area.
Since the agreement of the Solent Growth Deal, the Solent LEP have been working hard to help this world-class area achieve its full potential and remains committed to building on this progress by working with Government to agree a further Local Growth Deal settlement for the area.
In advance of the autumn statement, Government have confirmed an allocation to the area to allow the LEP provide additional Grant Funding support to SMEs with high growth potential and, following launch of the Solent Growth Fund on 5th December, the Solent LEP expects to expand the funding available for local businesses early in the new year.
Gary Jeffries, Solent LEP Chairman, said;
“We know there remains significant uncertainty for business at present but we have seen some positive signs in the economy and, locally, the benefits of our investments through the initial Solent Growth Deal are beginning to be seen in the new jobs, homes, skills and infrastructure being delivered. However, both the Chancellors statement today and the local work we have been undertaking show that we need to do much more to continue to support the Solent. Our five point plan is clear and we must:
- Address deficits transport infrastructure and invest in flood defence to unlock new land for development; and
- Address the shortage of housing in the Solent area, including affordable homes in particular; and
- Develop the skills that our economy needs to succeed, with a continued focus on higher level skills, apprenticeships and STEM; and
- Ensure that ideas and knowledge are at the forefront of our approach working with our world class universities to support our businesses to innovate and grow; and
- Address the economic challenges on the Isle of Wight, including securing new Island Infrastructure investment which will support investment in transport and unlock new land for development.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to the £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund and, in particular, the £4.7bn to enhance the UK’s position as a world leader in science and innovation and £2.6bn to tackle congestion and ensure the UK’s transport networks are fit for the future. We also welcome confirmation of the £1.8bn Growth Deal Funding to LEPs across England and the £492m for London and the South East. We look forward to continuing to work with Government to finalise a settlement for the Solent area in the coming months.”
In his Autumn Statement, Philip Hammond also gave the go ahead to ‘Innovation South’, a group of enterprise, innovators and researchers, including the Solent LEP for a government backed science & innovation audit.
Sir Christopher Snowden, Innovation lead at the Solent LEP, said;
“Government backing today for the Innovation South Partnership is extremely welcome and we must use this opportunity to secure further investment in innovation in the Solent moving forward to support our world leading high value sectors including Advanced Engineering and Marine & Maritime”.