Low Carbon South West was delighted to host a successful evening networking event with their members Smith & Williamson on the City Deal on the 12th October at the accountancy firm's Central Bristol offices.
Speakers: Paul Taylor, Peter Jackson and David Mouncey
Over 60 delegates attended what proved to be a useful and informative event that prompted lively discussion on a subject that was new to many. We were lucky to welcome a panel of expert speakers with specialist knowledge of the subject of the City Deal.
We heard from Paul Taylor, who is lead for Bristol City Council on the successful City Deal and who gave the background to the bid.
Paul explained that The City Deal initiative is driven by the Government's decentralisation programme which aims to drive growth by giving local control over funds and decide who does what with the crucial aim of "unlocking growth".
The Deal offers the chance to keep growth income within the region and to use it to reinvest and incentivise in further growth. Income will be used, in combination with other funding sources, to create an Economic Development Fund for the West of England worth £1 billion over 25 years.
Paul emphasised that the City Deal funding will be one pot of money to manage and prioritise. Key components of the bid are concerned with transport devolution, people and skills, increased inward investment to create a growth hub and a public property board.
Dave Mouncey of Smith & Williamson sees The City Deal money opening up long term investment and the chance of increased leverage for borrowing which should certainly help green tech businesses.
Dave sees the key priorities arising from The City Deal to be the need for a clear energy strategy and a master plan that will ensure that funding possibilities are maximised.
From the business point of view, businesses will need to understand tax incentives and mechanisms for raising finance, such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme, R & D Tax credits, enhanced capital allowances and Patent Box, which provides an additional incentive for companies to retain and commercialise existing patents and to develop new innovative patented products.
Dave concluded that The City Deal will be interesting to business - but businesses will need to know and understand where opportunities are and how to make the most of them.
We then heard from Peter Jackson, of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, who gave an overview of The City Deal from the point of view of the LEP and its constituent partners.
Peter explained that the Growth Incentive is central to the Deal, as it will allow for pooling of the business rate growth from the five designated Enterprise Areas across the region and the Enterprise Zone, making a significant contribution to the West of England Economic Development Fund.
He acknowledged that this region's City Deal is weaker than those from other regions in respect of emphasising low carbon aspirations. However, he made the point that by way of preparation for bidding for Phase II of the funding, there is an opportunity to place more emphasis on developing certain sectors, especially the low carbon sector.
Peter explained that The Deal will provide:
• Investment in a major devolved transport scheme in Bristol
• A single skills investment plan to increase apprenticeships and a business led Charter Mark to improve the employability of those newly entering the labour market.
• The City Growth Hub to attract and support inward investors to the region and help them to grow their businesses and find the right skills
• A public Property Board in Bristol to streamline management of properties and unlock land for economic growth and housing.
The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session chaired by Amy Robinson, Low Carbon South West. Topics of discussion included behaviour change in transport, how to best ensure local SMEs benefit from the City Deal and the likely role of the new Mayor of Bristol in influencing the direction of the policy.
The event was brought to a close by Alan Bailey of Low Carbon South West who feels that in his experience, the City Deal is the most cohesive policy of its type to date. He highlighted the role of LCSW in bringing companies together in a strong network and acting as a link between the policy makers and local businesses.
More detail on the strategy and planning of the City Deal can be found in the Implementation Action Plan which is published on the LEP website. The speakers presentations are available to download from our online resource centre.
Low Carbon South West would like to thank all of our speakers and contributors and especially our hosts Smith & Williamson who generously provided the venue and refreshments.