South West needs to speak up

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date: 3 September 2010

embargo: Immediate release

A major new report says the South West must speak up or face being hit the hardest by the expected Coalition cuts

A major new report assessing the state of the South West ahead of the October Emergency Budget, concludes that the region is in danger of being marginalised and becoming 'the forgotten part of England'.

The South West was the region that gave a higher proportion of its vote to the parties forming the coalition; all but four of the region's MPs are either Conservative or Liberal-Democrat.

But in the rush to dismantle the regional public sector, the South West risks being marginalised and taken for granted if it does not act now to make its voice heard, says the report Let's Hear It For The South West.

The report by South West Stakeholders, an alliance of social and economic organisations in the region from the Confederation of British Industry to Citizens Advice, points out that the South West already receives 9% less government spending than the UK average.

With the most stringent cuts for decades expected in the October Emergency Budget, the fear is that the region will lose out even further unless urgent action is needed to protect the region's economy and safeguard the vulnerable.

'The Government's commitment to reversing decades of centralisation creates new challenges for the South West,' says South West Stakeholders chair Nigel Costley, who is also South West TUC regional secretary.

'Other parts of Britain - not just the devolved administrations but the North West and the West Midlands in particular - have shown already the effectiveness of collective lobbying in making their cases to ministers.

'Local authorities, communities and people throughout the South West must find ways of expressing their collective voice to ensure they receive a fair share of limited resources and help put substance to the idea of a 'Big Society'. We must make our needs known and our voice heard.'

The report says some parts of the South West are more vulnerable to the reductions in public spending because they rely more on public services or are heavily dependent upon defence.

It says: 'Just a 6.5% cut in defence spending could mean 4,000 jobs will be lost in the region but this figure could be a lot higher. For every public sector job lost there will be another one gone from the private sector, especially in sectors such as construction, health and social care; 38% of small firms rely on public contracts.

'The Government believes that the private sector will recover enough to grow employment and take up the jobs lost from public services.

'This is a big risk and to get anywhere near the numbers required we must seize every opportunity to promote the region abroad and boost local employment in the big civil engineering projects due to come to the South West.'

The report expresses concern at the speed with which regional bodies are being abolished, pointing out that spatial planning and economic development for a sustainable future are complex matters, requiring long-term thinking and co-ordination of action over a wide area.

It says: 'The new Government is clearly unconvinced about the value of regional structures and bodies, but in its drive for reform, it appears to have lost sight of the fact that within such structures and bodies are many skilled and highly committed people who have been doing some great work.'

The report says action is needed to ensure that the skills, expertise and good practice from organisations such as the Regional Development Agency (RDA), Government Office for the South West, Strategic Health Authority and other bodies are not lost in transition.

Let's Hear It For The South West says serious challenges facing the region include:

? the most elderly population in England;

? the highest level of inward migration;

? the most people living outside urban areas (which can make it difficult for people to get

? to training, jobs and services);

? low levels of income (as well as the biggest spread in income disparities between different parts of the region);

? the highest proportion of people doing part-time jobs and of those with second jobs;

? the most unaffordable housing outside London and

? the least energy-efficient housing stock.

As well as the prospects for jobs, Let's Hear It For The South West looks at housing, transport, support for people, public services, rural development, energy supply, the environment and sustainability. The report is a collection of submissions from members who represent particular aspects of civil society and who have special knowledge of their subject.

Ends

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

An electronic copy of the report can be sent to you if you email southwestmedia@tuc.org.uk

About South West Stakeholders:

South West Stakeholders is an alliance of organisations in the region, including employers, voluntary groups, trade unions, environmentalists and housing, transport and equality bodies.

It is a good example of where contrasting interest groups have come together for a common good. Employer organisations, trade unions, environmental, housing, transport, church, equality, and rural groups have been working together for a number of years. This is 'Big Society' in practice - this is the independent voice of civil society in the South West.

Contacts:

South West Stakeholders chair Nigel Costley is available for comment. Contact him on 0117 947 0521 or 07887 797 153.

Or call South West TUC press officer Susie Weldon

m: 0797 0466 830 | t: 0117 952 0974 | e: southwestmedia@tuc.org.uk

Or South West TUC press officer Phil Chamberlain

m: 077 930 18283 | e: southwestmedia@tuc.org.uk

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