An extra 40,000 jobs and investment worth more than £1bn over the next 30 years were promised yesterday as the Government announced details of its long-awaited City Deal for Bristol.
The move is part of a Government plan to devolve new responsibilities to the city which it claims will give it the flexibility it needs to attract private investment, close skills gaps and attract new jobs.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “Local leaders and strong leadership are essential to the future prosperity of Britain’s cities.
“These new powers will enable Bristol City region to decide their own priorities for local public transport and flexibility on skills training – benefiting both employers and young people. By allowing Bristol City region to keep the business rates growth in its Enterprise Areas, this deal will support up to £1bn of investment locally.
“This unique deal will hugely benefit ordinary people and businesses in Bristol. It also marks an important step in Government’s commitment to decentralise power and rebalance local economies.”
The announcement, which has been trailed by the Government for around a year, was made as the cities minister Greg Clark visited pioneering Bristol microchip firm Xmos, whose technology is used globally to develop electronics products.
The five-part deal for Bristol includes:
- A growth incentive and the economic investment fund, which will allow the West of England to keep 100% of growth in business rates over 25 years to invest in projects, allowing authorities to deliver an investment programme worth £1bn over 30 years;
- 10 years of major funding allocation for the Greater Bristol Metro – the flexible delivery for the Bus Rapid Transit Network which will allow savings to be recycled locally; and new powers over rail planning and delivery;
- A Public Property Board will manage up to £1bn of city council assets and an estimated 180 land and property assets to unlock more land for economic growth or housing and to lever in additional public or private investment;
- A city growth hub with up to £2.25m of Government funding which will provide additional support to inward investors. This will be based in the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and will work closely with UK Trade and Investment;
- The business community and local enterprise partnership will have more influence in skills provision in the city region, in particular the £114m Skills Funding Agency funding for Further Education colleges for post-16 provision, to help capture employer demand.
Mr Clark said: “This innovative deal is a watershed moment for Bristol in unlocking the city’s true potential. It will help to create jobs thousands of jobs and secure the investment in transport the city needs to thrive.
“When we said ‘make us an offer’ the city really stepped up to the challenge and will now reap the benefits of having new financial powers freedoms handed down from Government.”
Bristol City Council leader Simon Cook said the deal represented “an historic devolution of powers from Whitehall”.
“It is very good news that business rates will be back in local hands and that we’ll be able to borrow against those revenues to invest in development,” he added.
“For the first time we’ll have the ability to drive our own economic strategy and make the much-needed investment in our infrastructure, in particular in our rail system which is in urgent need of more capacity.”
West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) chair Colin Skellett, said: “Today’s announcement is a strong vote of confidence from Government in our region’s businesses to drive growth and create jobs. It is also an excellent example of what can be achieved by the four local authorities and business working together so effectively.
“This is a deal for hi-tech growth that builds on the West of England’s strengths in engineering, the digital and creative sectors.
It gives us unprecedented input into the skills training of our young people to ensure we’re meeting the future needs of businesses across the city and region.
Bristol is one of eight cities confirming their deals along with Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Liverpool.