Friday, 29 March 2019

The story of the 'Back the South West' campaign

Back in October 2016, the Western Morning News launched its 'Back the South West' campaign, just a few months after the Brexit process lumbered into inaction:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Back The South West

It has regularly relaunched the campaign:
Futures Forum: Tech Nation >>> "'there's more to the South West than cream teas and cowpats'"

Today there was another relaunch - of something which talks about 'growth' and whose main photo is of a motorway heading into the sunny uplands: 

Forget Brexit - it's the day to #BackTheSouthWest

As Brexit turmoil continues to reign in the UK, we have seized to day to relaunch #BackTheSouthWest

By Hannah Finch
29 MAR 2019

The South West must #BackTheSouthWest

With indecision thwarting today’s Brexit deadline, we say there’s never been a better time for the South West to be crystal clear about its future. What should have been a momentous day for the UK has been scuppered by delay and division. Politics as we know it has been turned upside down and the country’s growth agenda is at a standstill.

While the Brexit debacle slides on, the Western Morning News - in partnership with Pennon Group and support from LiveWest and Womble Bond Dickinson - is set to seize the day to launch the second phase of the #BackTheSouthWest campaign.

Bill Martin, editor Western Morning News, said: “We could stand around waiting for someone, anyone, to tell us what’s going on with Brexit but the future prosperity of our region is too important for that. That’s why it’s so vital to press ahead with our ambitions for #BackTheSouthWest. Our priorities remain the same, we need a transport system, including a railway that is fit for the future. We need digital connectivity, quality housing, skilled jobs and the talented staff to fill them. Our aim is to ensure that the South West backs itself to show Westminster that we are more than ready for investment.”

The #BackTheSouthWest campaign was first launched in August 2016 in response to the Brexit referendum vote. At the inaugural Growth Summit launch event, Sajid Javid, the then secretary of state for communities and local government said there has to be a credible figurehead for economic growth for the Government to be prepared to hand over powers for investment, transport and infrastructure to the region. And he called for the region to have one voice on its plans for economic prosperity.

The campaign quickly gathered momentum, garnering support from some of the region’s biggest businesses, academics and political leaders.

We presented the South West Growth Charter to Downing Street, secured a debate at Westminster and formed a South West Leaders Forum with representatives from across all sectors of the business community.

A second Growth Summit held in 2017 harnessed widespread support for unity in a region that leads the way in the aerospace and creative industries.

Now it is a question of pulling together that enthusiasm and taking that message to the rest of the country and the world.

But despite our efforts, our economy has been held back by infrastructure underspend. Five years on from the Dawlish rail disaster, trains are still being cancelled during bad weather. The M5 remains our only major route into the region and the A303 upgrades have yet to begin. But we have seen progress in the shape of an £80million pledge for rail resilience works at Dawlish and £83million for improvements to the North Devon Link Road.

And crucially, we have seen regeneration throughout the region. From the enlarged Tate St Ives, new hotel plans in Torquay or further investment in Exeter’s city centre, we are seeing great changes that are designed to boost visitor numbers and the viability of our must populated areas.

The new Messenger statue in Plymouth is a bold statement of intent for the city about its creative heritage and vision for the future.

Change happens in stages and as a region, we need the backing to make those changes a future reality.

In February, Sarah Heald, Pennon’s Director of Corporate Affairs & Investor Relations joined South West MPs and Heart of the South West LEP chief Executive David Ralph to take our case to Government.

Under Sir Gary Streeter, MP for South West Devon, MPs from across the region, from Cheltenham to the Isles of Scilly, came together to call on the Government to invest in the Great South West. MPs called on the Government to fund transport improvements, including dualling of the A303 from Ilminster to Honiton, and works to improve capacity on the M5 from Taunton to Bristol.

In closing, Members highlighted the importance of South West MPs joining together to ensure the region receives its fair share of funding, and if we can just get the infrastructure right, the South West’s best is yet to come.

Minister for Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, said: “This is the year of regional growth, and the South West must be at the heart of it.”

As we get set to launch this latest phase of the #BackTheSouthWest campaign, the Western Morning News says: “We could not agree more.”

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