It was two years ago that I was elected as the first West of England Mayor and I have been focused on getting on with the job, addressing the challenges and opportunities we share across our region. I have worked closely with leaders in our councils, businesses and universities, speaking together as one region with one voice. We are being heard in Westminster and beyond, securing investment to keep the region moving, growing and successful.
The benefits of this joined-up approach are already clear. Beyond the annual £30m of Government money into the region as part of our devolution deal, I have secured an additional £180m since I was elected. In April, I met with the Transport Secretary who committed an extra £31.9m to complete the funding needed to reopen the railway to Portishead and Pill. This is part of our ambitious MetroWest plans which will see us open new railway lines and stations, benefiting residents and helping our region prosper while reducing congestion and air pollution. It is thanks to our hard work as a Combined Authority that such plans are now happening.
I want to improve everyone’s opportunity to thrive, and we must ensure people have the right skills and experience to realise their potential. We have launched our new Careers Hub which is designed to give young people improved careers guidance and opportunities. Careers Hub links schools and colleges with local businesses so that our children and grandchildren are better equipped for the world of work and the needs of regional employers. This week I was delighted to announce we have just secured additional funding to expand the Careers Hub to every school and college in the region, so that all young people can get a head start when entering the world of work.
WECA also launched a project called Future Bright which is already helping local people who are in work and on benefits to improve their career prospects and pay through tailored careers coaching and skills development. It has been fantastic to meet people who’ve gained the promotion they wanted, set up their own business or changed to a career they find more worthwhile. Once again, this is something which would not be happening without the Combined Authority and its focus on developing skills in the region.
I am proud of our progress so far but know there’s more to do, so I will continue to work hard to deliver on the ground and champion the West of England at every opportunity.