It was encouraging to see combined authorities, specifically the Greater Manchester City Deal, receive a clear endorsement in the Budget.
With local enterprise partnership involvement, they offer a breakthrough in leadership and funding on transport, infrastructure and skills, bringing together the best of the public, private and third sectors.
Greater Manchester’s City Deal, whereby extra tax of up to £30m per annum, generated by an investment programme of up to £1.2bn, can be ‘earned back’ from central government, is based on a rigorous approach to identifying its priorities.
Its investment framework for highlighting and prioritising projects to create additional growth was key to moving forward and winning the confidence of ministers.
Vital elements of this framework include: a move to encourage trade and investment with the fast-growing BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) emerging markets; investment in the city as a centre for science and technology; support for start-up firms; moves to a more unified planning regime and the development of an apprenticeship and skills hub.
Establishing a central portal for business support and trade and investment, and encouraging a local authority bond market to enable self-financing and funding are also key components (although this part has not received such a strong ministerial endorsement).
The investment framework prioritises projects based on their economic impact and incorporates proposals for a revolving fund to attract private infrastructure capital, and align public and private sector investment based on a functional economic area.
This comprises a comprehensive ‘self-help’ package, which addresses employment and economic growth, is aimed at attracting new sources of funding, and adopts a viable governance structure.
It also amounts to an ‘investment prospectus’. It includes: a collective view of investment opportunities in the area for interested parties; information for prospective investors on re-locational incentives and potential projects that would boost their business growth strategies; a positive message that councils are fully committed to promoting growth; a statement of the area’s growth ambition; examples of recent success; workforce details, plus the potential opportunity; and information on developments - ‘one pagers’ of available sites, key facts and current position, etc.
The prospectus also outlines what is expected from investors in terms of jobs, sustainable development, energy management and goals.
In summary, an investment prospectus backed by a collaborative council structure says: “We are open for business.” It is something that speaks to the local community, employers, business and prospective investors.
Chris Wilson, vice-president, LeighFisher