Elected mayor George Ferguson has helped to unlock £1billion business investment fin Bristol, says minister

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Written by:   | Posted 06-March-2014 15:24

Bristol’s decision to go ahead with an elected mayor has helped to unlock £1billion investment for the city in the years to come.

This is due to what is called the City Deal which allows Bristol to retain the extra income from business rates as a result of new economic growth and decide for itself how the money should be spent. In the past, the Government has kept business rates to be distributed nationally.

CITIES Minister Greg Clarke claims the Government “sits up and takes notice when Bristol speaks” as he praised mayor George Ferguson for his role in raising the city’s profile, writes Bristol Post parliamentary correspondent Caroline Wheeler.

Mr Clark said the Government was “very sympathetic” to Mr Ferguson’s demand for more powers for Bristol.

He also said he expects to see a “strong and commanding set of proposals” when the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) submits its strategic economic plan to the Government this month.

At a Newspaper Conference lunch at Westminster, Mr Clark said he was “very sympathetic” to both the vision set out by Mr Ferguson and the LEP.

Late last year, Mr Ferguson called for more powers for the city and said he wanted to see Bristol used as a “test bed for radical ideas.”

Meanwhile, the LEP has set out its vision to create thousands of new jobs by investing in five key industries, including advanced engineering and aerospace.

It wants the Government to invest around £80 million a year as part of its new growth deals, which are expected to be launched in July.

Mr Clarke told the Post: “Bristol is a real success story; it has been for a number of years.

“I think the creation of the mayoralty in Bristol has solved one of the principal problems that was holding back Bristol, which was the chaotic and unpredictable shifts in local government leadership.

“I think George Ferguson has raised the profile of the city certainly in Westminster and Whitehall.

“I think the way that he has operated has brought people together; I think he has had a uniting presence.

“And so when he makes proposals, as he has when he came to see me and David Cameron, you sit up and take notice when Bristol speaks.

“He is building on demonstrated success. So when they submit their final proposals on March 31, I expect them, given what has happened in Bristol in recent years, to be a very strong and commanding set of proposals.”

The LEP is expected to focus its growth deal bid on five sectors: low carbon; high tech; advanced engineering and aerospace; creative and digital media; and finance and professional services.

In those industries, the organisation says there are four areas in which it may be able to help – skills and people; place and infrastructure; investment and promotion; and support for small and medium sized businesses.

The plan will be used to bid for a slice of £2 billion from central government, money carved out to be devolved into local hands by Lord Heseltine’s drive to give more power to the regions.

By population, Bristol would get a share of around £40 million.

But yesterday Mr Clark stressed that only the best bids would win a share of the funding – with applicants set to undergo scrutiny which he claim will be a kin to the “Dragon’s Den” elimination style process.

Mr Ferguson, who met Mr Clark during one of several visits to London since his election in November, said: “The City Deal negotiated this year is a good start.which we need to build on and “I want to kick-start talks immediately on a Mayoral Deal.”


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