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Case made for powerhouse in the West

Words: Laura Edgar
Bristol / iStock-905699256

Cities and towns in the west of the UK have outlined the potential for a new regional economic powerhouse project, setting out five key areas of collaboration and cross-border partnership.

At an event hosted last week by Lord Kerslake, The Powerhouse for the West, was presented to senior politicians, business and education leaders at the House of Lords.

Commissioned by the Great Western Cities partnership of Bristol City Council, Cardiff Council and Newport City Council, recommendations in the report aim to drive improvement to infrastructure, investment and inclusive growth across the seven cities in the region.

Debbie Wilcox, leader of Newport City Council, said: “The opportunities that a powerhouse could capitalise and enrich are vast. The region already has an economy worth £107 billion, which is 10 per cent higher than the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine, yet our growth is slower than average. If we only grow to meet the UK average, we will become a £1.21 billion economy – just think of the potential if this powerhouse was created.”

The report sets out a plan to “turbo-charge” growth in the region and puts a focus on developing key strengths to stimulate that growth. It highlights five areas of collaboration:

  • An industrial strategy linking sector strengths.
  • Integrating road and rail improvements to enable faster connectivity.
  • An internationalisation strategy that promotes the region’s industrial strengths.
  • Establishing a productivity and innovation observatory that makes better use of our data.
  • Piloting and measuring tailored approaches to connecting the most deprived communities with the region’s highest growth sectors.

Great Western City partners have already been joined by Bath and North East Somerset Council, Gloucestershire County Council, Swansea Council and Swindon Borough Council to support the venture. It would stretch along the M4 corridor from Swindon and across the Welsh border to Cardiff and Swansea, and in the north from Gloucester and Cheltenham to Bath and Bristol.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “Our ultimate vision is to create a serious, long-term, cross-border partnership. We already export £18.4 billion of goods and £11 billion of services every year – we want to further promote our excellent trade and investment opportunities by developing an internationalisation strategy. In a post-Brexit world export based growth will be of huge importance to economic development and this collaboration has the potential to ensure this region competes with high growth regions around the world."

Rees said that if this was achieved, the bottlenecks across the M4 and M5 will be unblocked and that communities in deprived areas will be connected with skills and employment opportunities.

A Powerhouse For The West, by Metro Dynamics, can be found on the A Powerhouse for the West website (pdf).

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