Oxford & Reading: 'City Deals'

19 February 2013, 06:11 | Updated: 19 February 2013, 08:43

Heart's found out Oxford and Reading are being given more power over how money's spent to boost their economies.

The first eight 'City Deals' were announced last year, and now Reading and Oxford are two of twenty more places to be given greated power and responsibilites.
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' plans for growth, the government will give them more financial and planning powers to let cities take charge of their own future - from decisions 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."

In October 2012, as part of the deal process, twenty cities were invited to submit bids to get a City Deal. Each area worked with local partners and their Local Enterprise Partnership to put forward proposals.  Following careful assessment of the bids - which are judged on whether they are ambitious, robust and can attract private sector investment - the government has decided to enter negotiations with every city on a staggered timeline.
What happens next:
The Government will now work closely with cities to develop the proposals in more detail and to negotiate a final deal. It will aim to complete deals with the twenty cities over the next year.
Oxford and Oxfordshire: want to use a City Deal to accelerate the growth of the knowledge economy by building on the strong base (including significant clusters in bio-sciences, space technology and cryogenics), two world-class universities (Oxford and Oxford Brookes) and  internationally-recognised 'Big Science' research centres (eg Culham Research Centre and Harwell Laboratories). 

Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council says: "The City and County Councils, the LEP, Oxfordshire’s district councils, and the universities have worked closely together to make this a successful bid, but there is a lot more to be done to ensure that the final agreement meets our aspirations.

"Oxford was selected to bid for the City Deal because of its continuing growth potential, and its contribution to the national economy.

"Expanding the vitality of the Oxfordshire economy is vital for the future of our communities.

"Our focus is on creating employment and economic growth in the knowledge economy, supported by housing and infrastructure."

Oxfordshire County Council Leader Ian Hudspeth said: “Not only will this give us greater local control over how money spent by national agencies is targeted and delivered towards a common agenda but also provides Oxfordshire with real opportunities to address the transport issues which businesses identify as barriers to growth.

"The City Deal can help contribute to increased localism within our community in a way that creates efficient, effective and equitable public services as well as make Oxfordshire a place where businesses can thrive by creating jobs for people."

Reading & Central Berkshire: want to use a City Deal to ensure that local people have the skills they need to access local job opportunities.  Reading wants to focus on ensuring that people have skills in the growing sectors (particularly construction, logistics and knowledge intensive areas) and to ensure school leavers have the soft "employability" skills businesses need.

Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East, said:

“I welcome the statement from the Deputy Prime Minister regarding giving Reading the green light to go ahead and try to negotiate to get the freedom, powers and tools needed to shape our economic future.  This Government promised to devolve Government closer to local people and this is yet another area where we are delivering on that promise.”

“I hope that the Local Authority will be ambitious with what it negotiates, as my concern is that it won’t be ambitious enough.  I can see many aspects of transport, skills and the knowledge economy where locally we could drive jobs and growth faster.  This is an opportunity to push very hard for things like a Third Thames Bridge, help for our shopping areas, supporting growth sectors and much more.  The Government is delivering I hope the LA will step up to the responsibility it gives to it.”