2019 has undoubtedly been a busy year. While most of the attention has been focused on Westminster, I’ve been working tirelessly to ensure that the West of England Combined Authority is getting on with its job and delivering for our region. We’ve had many successes this year as we address our challenges and opportunities, and I look forward to building on this work to deliver real improvements for our residents throughout the 2020s and beyond.
One of my priorities is investing in public transport infrastructure so that our residents can move around the region more easily, connecting people and communities with jobs, skills and training and leisure opportunities.
In April, I secured Government commitment of £31.9m – the final piece of funding needed to reopen the railway between Bristol and Portishead and Pill, as part of our MetroWest rail plans. This has been talked about for decades but now, thanks to the Combined Authority working with our local councils, it’s happening; I’m excited that construction will start as soon as the necessary approvals are given by Government. This type of ambitious new transport connection will be vital for our region, as we continue to ensure sustainable growth, addressing the important issues of congestion and climate change.
I’m also very proud of the support we are giving our next generation of employees and entrepreneurs. Earlier this year we rolled out our Careers Hub to every school in the West of England, including special educational needs schools, linking them with Enterprise Advisors who are professionals from local businesses and industry. This decade’s students will be the next decade’s employees, so I want to make sure that every young person has better opportunities to gain meaningful work experience and careers advice, helping them improve their confidence and make informed choices. Alongside this, Future Bright is supporting people in work and on benefits to progress at work, and our Growth Hub is working to help small and medium-sized businesses thrive and grow in the region.
As we go into the new year, I will continue to work hard for our region. I’m confident that devolution will remain on the agenda with our new Government. We are at an unique moment in our region’s history where there is the political will – both nationally and locally – to work together to make sure that we invest in those things that make a big difference to our residents – transport, homes, skills and jobs.
As set out in our region’s Local Industrial Strategy, our region has many unique strengths – in particular we are recognised as innovative, ambitious and collaborative. I look forward to building upon these strengths in the new decade as we work to make the West of England the best possible place to work and live for all our residents.
Wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year!