40 business leaders back 'city deal' bid
MORE than 40 of the region's high-profile businesses have now backed the bid for a lucrative 'city deal'.
Civic leaders handed in a formal expression of interest yesterday and will learn by the end of February whether the Government is prepared to enter final negotiations on their £1 billion vision.
They want to be awarded unprecedented powers over how Government funding is spent in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent as part of a blueprint to make the region a 'world power' in manufacturing.
JCB chairman Sir Anthony Bamford, Steelite chief executive Kevin Oakes and Michelin director Eric le Corre are among 40 business leaders who have now signed up to say they believe a Government deal will transform the local economy.
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All of the region's chambers of commerce have also signed up, as well as health, police and fire services.
Speaking after the expression of interest was submitted, city council and Labour leader Mohammed Pervez said: "Our vision for the city is about jobs and growth and this will accelerate that.
"We have looked very carefully at the barriers to growth and we are asking the Government to help us overcome them.
"We want our employment sites to be ready to develop and that means improving connectivity through new roads and providing local, sustainable energy and a cheaper solution. And we also want to improve the skills of our workforce through education – making sure education institutions are teaching skills that are aligned with what businesses need.
"We missed out on a local enterprise zone and to miss out again here would be a huge missed opportunity. We've put forward a very strong case and the vibes from Government so far are good."
The region's bid, which pledges 31,000 new jobs over 10 years, is built around plans to build new roads and infrastructure for 22 key 'shovel ready' business zones, which will attract firms with cut-price, self-generated power.
An agreement with up to three international universities and the IC5 Innovative Centre in Keele, which will get £1 million-a-year under the proposals, aim to make the region a world centre for inventing and developing 'advanced materials' to then be manufactured locally.
Philip Atkins, Conservative leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: "We have a unique offer with the emphasis on advanced materials and our energy enterprise zones, and new skills covered by the education trust. It's a way of bringing everything together to deliver what matters most – jobs, and better paid jobs at that, for the local economy.
"We have had a huge amount of support. We all recognise that if we get the economy right it's a win-win situation for everybody."