This week it was announced Preston was one of 20 cities in the running for additional funding and support as part of the government’s city deal scheme, we asked Preston City Council leader Peter Rankin to explain what it all means.
The government’s recent announcement that Preston and a further 19 cities are being invited to compete for Wave 2 City Deals is a welcome expansion of the Government’s new policy of devolving power and funding to engines of economic growth – the cities. It is an acknowledgement that Preston, as one of only 4 cities in the whole of Northern England invited to bid, is a City Region of great potential for growth and prosperity.
City Deals are formal agreements between government and specific cities whereby the government agrees to delegate to these cities an agreed package of funding and powers. In return the cities have to deliver additional growth in jobs and economic output.
City Deals represent an important shift in power from the centre to the local; an acknowledgement of the role the major English cities play in generating economic growth and jobs. Therefore, giving cities more direct control over the drivers of growth: funding and finance, skills, business development and infrastructure, makes a great deal of sense. Lord Heseltine’s report published on 31st October reinforces this proposition.
The Core City Deals, signed with Manchester, Liverpool and the 6 other English Core Cities covered a range of different issues. Wave 2 for Preston will require a deeper and narrower focus, concentrating on a theme or issue unique to the Preston City Region, the tackling of which will deliver significant additional levels of jobs and economic growth.
The Preston Region is well placed to bid for and win a City Deal. In the decade to 2008 it saw 16% growth in private sector jobs – the third highest rate in the country. Since then, Preston has demonstrated resilience in the face of the international economic downturn, continuing to provide jobs for residents and those from other parts of Lancashire – between 2007 and 2010 it provided around 46,000 more jobs than it had working age residents.
The city’s role as a transport, administrative and education hub make it a magnet for new jobs growth, as does the location of substantial high level advanced engineering businesses and two Enterprise Zones on its doorstep. Increasingly, more people are moving out of unemployment and the ratio of unemployed to available jobs is one of the lowest in the North West.
But there are limitations on the city’s ability to realise its growth – transport links require improvement and the city centre needs regenerating. There is no room for complacency, but a well thought out City Deal proposal which identifies realistic proposals for moving things forward, and which demonstrates how the City Council, the County Council and other partners are already committing their own resources to make things happen should stand an excellent chance of being accepted.
We have already held initial discussions with officials from the Cabinet Office and will submit an Expression of Interest, setting out our case by the January 2013 deadline. The winning bids should be announced by April 2013, with further time then required to negotiate the detail of the Deal with relevant government departments. Implementation would then be from Autumn 2013.
We will be pursuing the City Deal vigorously – it is the only show in town. The Guild Year has shown – and continues to show – what a great place Preston is, and what we can do together when we put our mind and our wills to something. Let’s try and carry some of that experience through to other areas of activity and build a better city and a better future for all our residents and businesses.
Peter Rankin is the Labour leader of Preston City Council and also the local ward councillor for Tulketh
Image credit to Bernie Blackburn
What do you think of the city deal bid? What would you like to see happen in our city?