The £1 billion bid to return Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent to the glories of its industrial past
A £1 BILLION 'city deal' with the Government could restore Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent's historic status as a world power in manufacturing and economic growth.
Business and civic leaders will tell Whitehall that an unprecedented package of devolved central powers can put the region at the forefront of international research and development in manufacturing, for the first time in generations.
A formal bid will pledge that a deal can create 31,000 jobs in the county and city, reducing unemployment to below 16 per cent, and lift the number of people educated to NVQ level four or degree level to above the national average.
Leaders will submit an official expression of interest to the Government today.
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Their aim is to make the region a European 'powerhouse' for economic growth, job creation and manufacturing for the first time since the emergence of the Potteries.
Landmark partnerships with international universities and the IC5 Innovation Centre at Keele University Science Park aim to make Staffordshire the European centre for researching, developing and manufacturing new 'advanced materials' for world industry.
Without Government backing for a deal, the region will be left to apply for ad hoc funding and hope for Treasury support – meaning it could not press ahead with its own masterplan.
The bid, led by Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and major regional businesses, also includes:
Unlocking funding of more than £650 million from businesses and universities willing to create new road systems, energy networks and a research centre in partnerships which lever in council and Government funding;
A commitment to increasing the employment rate from 64.8 per cent in Stoke-on-Trent and 71.1 per cent in Staffordshire to 80 and 84 per cent respectively;
Investing more than £1 million a year at IC5 in Keele to help entrepreneurs who can turn scientific research into manufacturing jobs;
Generating 85 gigawatts of energy a year for local businesses – equal to 485 industrial kilns running 24 hours a day;
An education trust, believed to be the first of its kind, will bring together industry and school leaders to make sure that the right skills training is being given in schools;
Using the new research centre and an agreement with the region's two universities to help lift the number of people educated to NVQ level four or degree level to 36.6 per cent in Stoke-on-Trent and 44.3 per cent in Staffordshire.
Latest figures on current NVQ levels are languishing at 18.2 per cent in the city and 27 per cent in the county – against a national average of 33 per cent.
The deal would be delivered by a powerful body including both councils and business leaders on the local enterprise partnership.
The private sector will share the financial risks and councils will pool resources including staff, capital and land, to attract up to £1.8 billion in private sector and Government investment.
Ron Dougan, chairman of the local enterprise partnership, said: "These exciting, ambitious proposals offer a clear and achievable route to making Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire one of the best places in Europe to do business.
"Bringing this bid together, the public and private sector have worked hand in hand, united by their desire for economic growth across the city and county, so that we generate jobs and greater prosperity for business and local people."
Scientific research into advanced materials, like non-stick Teflon and ultra-light 'smart' alloys, creates cutting edge manufacturing resources with superior properties like flexibility and strength.
Research in Staffordshire will include a focus on 'super ceramics' which can be used in cars and surgery.
A multi-million pound research centre, led by the private sector and supported by major universities, would be built to develop products which could then be manufactured in the region.
The bid is also centred on plans to build new roads and infrastructure for 'shovel ready' business parks, helping them to exploit the region's key central transport links.
Businesses moving into 22 designated key sites will benefit from cut-price bills as part of radical plans for independent energy networks, generating power from natural resources like hot water running through former mine shafts to relieve dependence on the national grid.
Crucially, the bid will not make any demands for additional public money.
Instead it will ask for control over how Government money is spent locally to be transferred from Whitehall to the region – allowing city and county leaders the power to decide which projects should be funded to create new jobs.
They will also call for cuts to regulatory red tape and funding settlements which reward councils for attracting private sector backing and using it to grow the economy.
Philip Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: "This exciting bid builds on our region's geography, geology and its rich industrial heritage with a modern day desire to work together to create economic growth and jobs. The city and county have enormous potential. Creating jobs and growth is our top priority and we have the backing of a huge range of people."
City council leader Mohammed Pervez, left, said: "Our area has the potential to become the natural home for advanced materials businesses in Europe by exploiting our position at the very heart of three of the four largest core cities in England. There is a real focus on turning this vision into reality."