Wider South East Summit calls for joint voice on investment

5th February 2019

Representatives of 100+ councils and partner bodies from South East, East of England and London have called for more joint work to secure essential investment across their areas.

A Wider South East (WSE) Summit heard that collaboration to support shared infrastructure investment needs would be important to underpin sustainable growth across all three areas, which form the dynamo of the UK economy.

The Summit – held on 11 January 2019 at City Hall, London – brought together council leaders, elected mayors, senior officers and LEP representatives to discuss how they could collaborate more closely to address strategic growth challenges. This built on ongoing debate through the WSE Political Steering Group, which brings together councillors from SEEC, East of England LGA and London Councils with the London Mayor’s office.

Delegates debated with a panel of WSE leaders, including SEEC Deputy Chairman Cllr Ralph Bagge, East of England LGA Chairman Cllr David Finch, the London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz. Delegates also heard about opportunities for collaboration on barriers to housing delivery, long term transport priorities, sustainable growth and smart use of data in a second panel session. Speakers in this debate included: London Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe and councillors from emerging Sub-national Transport Bodies: SEEC’s Cllr Tony Page, Deputy Chairman of Transport for the South East; Cllr Kevin Bentley, Chairman of Transport East; and Mayor Dave Hodgson, Chairman of England’s Economic Heartland’s Strategic Transport Forum.

During round table discussions that followed the panel debates, councillors contributed ideas on how they could work collectively to address shared problems. These common challenges include meeting increasing housing demand and securing essential infrastructure investment at a time when local authorities are facing severe funding pressures. There was support for joint work to do more to articulate the case for the national economic benefits to be gained from investing in WSE growth. The need to speak with one strategic voice across the political spectrum of the WSE was one of the key messages taken away from the Summit.

Other key discussions included scope for pooling or jointly commissioning technical research to support development plans and potential for mapping collaboration opportunities. Further suggestions put forward initiatives on planning, economic growth, infrastructure improvements and maintaining solid underpinning evidence.

Cllr David Finch, Chairman of the East of England LGA said:

"As the only three areas in the UK to make net contributions to the Treasury, the East of England, London and the South East have a combined GVA of £814 billion. Through focussing on our shared priorities, using our strong relationships, and speaking with one collective voice, we can unlock essential funding and development opportunities that are necessary to transform what is already a successful economic region into a global leader. "

Cllr Ralph Bagge, Deputy Chairman of South East England Councils said:

"All our areas face similar challenges and we must all do everything we can to meet those needs sustainably – balancing homes, jobs, infrastructure and green space in a way that doesn’t increase pressure on our neighbours. Working together we really need to stress the value that the Wider South East contributes to UK plc and the risk of losing that if Government focuses its investment only on regenerating other parts of the country."

The next Political Steering Group in March 2019 will consider next steps on suggestions put forward at the Summit. This year’s WSE Summit was held just before the opening of the London Plan Examination in Public (15 January 2019). Summit discussion therefore focused on joint action around shared concerns, including those set out in the emerging London Plan. The outcomes of the EiP and implementation of the Plan will remain a key issue for the Wider South East (WSE) political partnership.

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