Preston on track for City Deal
Preston is one of 20 regions to have progressed to the next stage of the City Deal process which could unlock millions of pounds to be managed and spent without Whitehall involvement.Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made the announcement last night in London as part of a decentralisation speech and Preston can now begin negotiations to secure the freedom, powers and tools needed to shape its economic future.
The deals will be reached between Government and cities so that local areas can bid for new powers that will enable them to grow. In return for cities’ strong plans for growth the government will devolve financial and planning powers to let cities take charge of their own destinies – from autonomy over how to spend their training and skills budgets, to creating local investment funds to build roads and unlock developments.Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg said: “Even more places will be free from Whitehall control and have the tools to power their own growth. These deals help cities and their wider areas make once in a generation changes that will be felt by everyone across their region.
“Letting go of power and money doesn’t come naturally to Whitehall. Over time, the economic importance of other parts of the country has been devastatingly downplayed, as the economic elite have narrowed the debate towards a London-centric view.“Rather than let our industries and communities wither, we need to free up cities outside of London that have their own unique selling points.”
The Government will now work closely with cities to develop the proposals in more detail and to negotiate a final deal which, it is hoped, will see more than 20,000 jobs created, 15,000 homes built and around £1bn injected into the local economy over the next decade.County coun Geoff Driver, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "It is superb news for Lancashire that the government has decided to support the bid.
"Preston has enormous potential as a focal point for economic growth, but this bid is on a vast scale and it is not just the city itself but the whole of Lancashire that stands to benefit. It also complements our existing programmes for job creation and apprenticeships."The City Deal will form the basis for large scale investment in transport and housing, and provide the ideal conditions for companies to invest and create employment."
Securing the City Deal is expected to provide the basis for a number of major schemes to be realised, including new roads and widening of existing routes to greatly improve access to and from the motorway network.It will also support a series of new housing developments that are constrained by the existing transport infrastructure, and complement plans to develop the city centre.
Edwin Booth, chairman of Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: "I'm delighted that the bid has received the green light and particularly pleased with the feedback the proposal has had from government."The indications are that this is one of the most advanced of the 20 bids put forward for consideration, which suggests Lancashire could be among the first to capitalise on the benefits of the City Deal.
"The priority now must be to work with government to sign the deal as soon as possible and begin to turn what is an extremely significant proposal into a reality for residents and businesses across Lancashire."Coun Peter Rankin, Leader of Preston City Council, said: “This is very encouraging news for Preston. When finally agreed by government, City Deal would represent a huge boost for the Preston area and a massive vote of confidence for our local economy. Preston has a proven track record to thrive and deliver major economic growth.
"We just need the shackles to be unleashed to provide the infrastructure and freedoms that will enable more businesses to grow and flourish here."The council will give its full backing and commitment to working closely with Lancashire County Council and all partners to achieve this.”
Jim Carter, chairman of Preston Vision, added: "Preston's track record on economic growth over the last decade was matched by few other areas, so the private sector clearly recognises its potential."However the capacity of the infrastructure in and around the city is limiting further growth so the proposal set out in the City Deal is vitally important.
"I understand the government has been particularly impressed that the private sector has been engaged in the preparation of the bid and that is a theme that must continue as we move forward to deliver it."