I’ve been following the news in my car and online today for reaction to the Government’s City Deals announcement, which hands more powers to some of England’s largest metropolitan areas outside London.
These deals for Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester will see them take on new responsibilities and, in some cases, form new bodies which aim to drive growth and create thousands of new jobs in their areas.
If the recent mayoral referenda acts as any yardstick, then a story about boosting city economies does not excite the London-centric media, despite the fact that England’s eight core cities have more than 17m residents and generate around 25% of the country’s wealth. And, true to form, the response from the national media seems to have been to play it straight or not at all (I had to dig around some websites amongst stories about Bob Diamond and cuts to the Army, also announced today, to find any coverage on this).
This announcement affects more readers and listeners than London’s mayoral election did (and look at the coverage that got everywhere). It marks a major shift, not seen for decades, which gives cities the chance to reestablish themselves as powerhouses in their own right, as they used to be. These agreements pave the way for cities to set up self-sustaining investment funds, establish joint venture companies to train apprentices and have funding and flexibility to deliver key transport and infrastructure projects.
In Bristol, which was visited by Danny Alexander to make the announcement for the West of England today, the focus is on ambitions to invest £1bn in a new transport system and growth hubs and retain business rate incomes in five Enterprise Areas that have been set up to boost business growth. A key aim is to use these new powers to create 95,000 new jobs by 2030. Whoever wins the contest to become Bristol’s first elected mayor in November will be doing so at an exciting and important time for the city.
Here are some bits and pieces for those of you who wish to find out more about City Deals: