· An update on economic performance - Oxford Economics (10 minutes)
· The Solent Strategic Economic Plan one year on - Solent LEP (10 minutes)
General discussion on the performance of the Solent economy and identification of priorities for investment going forward (15 minutes)
Anne-Marie Mountifield, Chief Executive of Solent LEP gave a presentation to the forum (the slides will be attached to the minutes) setting out how the Solent Strategic Economic Plan is being refreshed and setting out where there had been interesting shifts in the economy and she invited views of the members as to where the priorities and focus should be to reflect the changes in the economy.
I was noted that the Gross Value Added (GVA) £25 billion for the area was a sixth of that for the south east economy. The presentation covered how the two cities were anchor points within the Solent area; the proximity of key businesses and the defence hub to the cities. In relation to unlocking further growth there would be a focus on unlocking flexible employment space and to work with PUSH (as part of their spatial strategy refresh to look at the availability of waterfront sites and B8 high office space) and transport links within the area.
The strengths within the area included the high technology clusters, the SME base and the strong higher and further education presence within the area as well as natural assets of green infrastructure and a good quality of life were emphasised as were challenges around the skills base which included replacing expertise in the technical skills of the labour market.
The slides set out the targets for growth in new jobs and new homes.
Reference was made to partnership working across the Solent and also to emerging areas where there would need to be more focus including; Broadband and transport connectivity, innovation and skills (particularly at the higher levels, linked to productivity). It was also clear that whilst employment and job creation had increased, productivity had not, and the productivity gap between the Solent and the wider south east is expected to grow. By focussing investment in skills and infrastructure there may be an opportunity to improve productivity and reduce the need for in-migration to satisfy labour demands. In conclusion Anne-Marie posed questions to the forum regarding:
Anthony Light from Oxford Economics (OE) gave the second presentation (this statistical information would be made available with the minutes). His presentation highlighted the key trends and in particular the GVA. The economy in the Solent was bigger than had been predicted mainly due to factors that were now being included within national statistics as well as growth. GVA was currently at approximately 2.8%, in line with the national average. Jobs growth was faster than anticipated (678,000 jobs in the area). There was evidence that the increases in employment rates were benefitting local residents.
Lower growth was evident when looking at productivity trends, and the Solent area was 12% below the south east average and 5% below the national average. Based on the update OE believe that the area would be able to meet the target of 15,500 jobs and the GVA to rise to 3.5% pa. It was noted that wages were now seen to be improving.
The Chairman requested that the slides be sent to all members. He then asked the members for their feedback which included:
· Members reiterated a need to focus on skills development and up-skilling the existing workforce to improve productivity.
· It was not just apprenticeships needed but for jobs to be made available at the end of the training periods.
· It was requested that there be an analysis of the skills levels as it was felt that the companies may be looking to move into the area if it had a sufficiently skilled population.
· Some members of the workforce in part-time employment wished to extend this to full-time employment.
· There should be a focus on transport connectivity to help improve productivity. There is also a need to look at alternative transport choices and air quality issues.
· The need for productivity growth and employment growth to be addressed at the same time but it was noted that there had been a growth in employment rather than productivity.
· There are also those who are not currently in the employment workplace who should be encouraged to re-join the workforce locally.
· The skills of migrants should be better understood to see if their skills matched employer requirements.
It was generally agreed that the skills agenda should be the focus for the Solent area. It was suggested that there be investigation of the impact of a referendum on leaving the European Union (EU) which could be fed back to the forum members. Unfortunately time had not permitted a full debate of the suggestion of flagship sites for housing and employment within the area.
The Chairman thanked both Anne-Marie Mountifield and Anthony Light for their interesting presentations.
RESOLVED the Solent Growth Forum -
1) considered the Solent Strategic Economic Plan presentations and
2) had provided their feedback to inform a review of the Solent Strategic Economic Plan.