Somerset’s economy lags behind many other parts of the country and is particularly vulnerable to economic shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 90% of our businesses employ fewer than 10 people and there are high levels of self-employment. As a rural county, Somerset has a higher proportion of businesses in agriculture as well as the retail, manufacturing and tourism and leisure sectors than the national average, all of which have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. It also remains at high risk of the impact of climate change.
We face key challenges around:
- infrastructure, including poor integration of road, rail and public transport
- poor digital connectivity
- labour market pressures linked to challenges in providing attractive and productive careers to younger people and also a longer-term impact of an ageing population
- poor housing supply and affordability
- rurality and rural isolation, as well as low population density
- industries vulnerable to climate change such as agriculture
- low footfall and accessibility to services in town centres.
Finding the solutions
Our reform agenda recognises that poverty and inequality are bad for growth. It has huge costs for individuals and services. Low-paid work creates a cycle of poverty and can leave communities feeling left behind and excluded from the benefits of growth. It also comes at a high cost to the taxpayer.
Stronger Somerset will deliver inclusive growth that:
- raises productivity, skills and wages to the regional and national level
- addresses the supply and affordability of housing by enabling, and where appropriate delivering, the housing to meet the needs of our communities
- connects our communities with better quality digital infrastructure as well as improved transport solutions, including investment in lower carbon forms of transportation
- creates opportunity and reduces isolation, particularly for our most deprived communities
- continues and enhances our work to tackle climate change.
Somerset: levelling up
Stronger Somerset will help to level up the Somerset economy – with improved productivity and social mobility. We pledge to grow a productive, connected and sustainable Somerset which is a great place to live, work and visit.
We are ambitious about the future of Somerset.
Our two unitary councils will recognise local distinctiveness, reflecting the opportunities and challenges of our market towns, coastal and rural communities and our principal towns of Bridgwater, Taunton and Yeovil.
Whilst unitary local government will help us to address a number of our economic challenges more effectively, we also recognise that our ambitions need to be supported by an ambitious and progressive devolution deal.
Historically, Somerset has spoken with one, clear voice to Government. A combined authority supported by two unitary councils will be able to set out clearly how Somerset can level up our economy using a devolution deal to unlock growth.