It was 24 hours after our American friends, but history may show that July 5 will forever be known as Bristol’s Independence Day.
It was the day when our City Deal was confirmed, a revolutionary way of making sure that this great city of ours never punches below its weight again, and I couldn’t be more delighted.
We will be released from the shackles of Westminster and given the chance to shape our own destiny – without delay.
Last month, as I travelled by rail with Transport Secretary Justine Greening – stressing the need for a modern Bristol Metro – it worried me that the old ways of doing things could have led to years and years of Bristol approaching Westminster, cap in hand, asking for money, waiting for decisions and forever putting visionary projects on hold.
No more! Already, and directly as a result of the City Deal, we have a likely date for the first services on a Bristol Metro – 2016.
In a stroke, Bristol is being given the powers to stand on its own two feet, make the right decisions for its people and, crucially, make them quickly.
Local leadership, with our Local Enterprise Partnership and about-to-be elected mayor at the heart of this, will know better than anyone in London what we need and where we need it, and they will understand that if we need it now, we can do it now.
Crucially, business rates growth will be kept in the local area and Bristol will be able to borrow responsibly against this money, meaning that at last we may have the chance to not only dream about an arena for the city – there is every opportunity it will actually happen.
The fact that business rates money will be spent here in Bristol represents a massive shift in attitudes
And all of this means that Bristol should never again be accused of having unfulfilled potential, a city which does well in spite of, not because of, its politics.
For years, entrepreneurs and creative people have been left frustrated by ‘the system’, meaning vital projects were left on the scrapheap or endlessly discussed but never fulfilled.
The knowledge that the reopening of train stations, such as Henbury in my constituency, is within touching distance is incredibly exciting and there can be no doubt that the Metro will change Bristol in a quite remarkable way, unlocking communities hitherto trapped by chronic congestion and often unappealing public transport.
Yet the City Deal is not just about transport and big ideas. Individuals will benefit as well, and directly.
With a new culture of close partnership between business and local government, we can attract the inward investment which will mean jobs and prosperity for thousands. And with the LEP at the hub of all of this, we will far less likely see stand-offs between the public and private sectors, distrustful of each other and unwilling to yield.
There is also an exciting opportunity for Bristol to create the kind of post-16 education, especially in vocational qualifications, which is needed in this city. The funding will mean this vocational training will reflect employer demand – another example of joined-up thinking which seems so obvious but which has not always happened in the past.
Of course this is a deal, so Bristol will need to deliver but there is no doubt we have the brainpower and experience here to make this all happen. As I travel round both the city and my constituency in Bristol North West, I never fail to be impressed by the amazing things happening in Bristol.
Now we have a unique chance here to change the face of our great city and give those great minds the chance to flourish – an opportunity not afforded to every city, it must be added.
July 5 should be seen as historic for Bristol – it’s now up to us all to make it happen.