£500m bid to kick-start Stoke-on-Trent's economy
A BID is being made for up to £500 million to transform the region's economy.
Ministers have already handed 'city deals' to places like Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and an announcement on a second wave of funding is expected later this year.
Now an alliance of council and business leaders on the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is lining up a bid to unlock major investment for economic growth.
It would devolve power from the Government and hand city and county leaders control over how national funding is spent, as well as access to extra finances and low-cost borrowing for projects specifically designed to create jobs.
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The cash would have to be matched by investment from sources including local authorities in the region, but regeneration bosses believe the strategy could help create 50,000 jobs in the next decade.
Alison Knight, Stoke-on-Trent City Council's assistant director of skills and enterprise, said: "A city deal would be worth billions of pounds in economic growth over the next 20 years."
City council leaders are understood to be pushing the authority's landmark plans to become energy self-sufficient to give them the edge over competing regions.
The Sentinel has learned the money could be spent on landmark projects including:
Widening the M6 to cut delays and speed up links between the region and neighbouring cities;
- Building a High Speed 2 station to benefit from the planned £32 billion rail link from Manchester to London;
- Creating an 'education trust' to promote thousands of apprenticeships and redesign curriculums to reflect the skills needed by businesses;
- Launching an innovation centre focused on advanced manufacturing techniques;
- Developing green technology such as biomass boilers and using mine water to generate geothermal energy.
Councillor Mohammed Pervez, leader of the city council, said: "We're showing that we are prepared to work together and see the greater good of bringing economic prosperity to the wider area of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
"If we are not successful we'll continue with our Mandate for Change but it means using our resources and moving forward cautiously, taking into account our financial position.
"The city is crying out for investment and we feel we're in a prime position to deliver the Government's aims if they are serious about economic growth in the country."
Not all of the funding unlocked by a 'city deal' would be new investment, but it would hand the region's leaders unprecedented power to shape the way Government money is spent locally.
Joanne Tyzzer, assistant director of regeneration, said: "It shouldn't be seen as a case of pass or fail. Whatever happens, this is raising the profile of what our area's needs are with the Government. We're benefiting from the discussions as the Government may choose to fund infrastructure projects we raise with them outside of a city deal."
Plans were discussed by the authority's city renewal scrutiny committee yesterday.
Members gave unanimous backing to the region placing a bid as soon as the Government announces a second wave.
Chairman Matt Wilcox said: "It's raising our profile. It's shouting out to central Government about what we are doing. And you have got to be in it to win it."