West of England Mayor Tim Bowles has welcomed the Government’s commitment to “levelling-up” regions announced in the Spending Review yesterday (25 November).
The Chancellor of the Exchequer set out a number of investments that will benefit the West of England, including:
- A new Levelling Up Fund, worth £4 billion, open to bids for investment in local infrastructure that has a visible impact on people and their communities and will support economic recovery
- A share of £2.5 billion for the West of England Combined Authority as one of eight city regions across England, as part of a five-year consolidated intracity transport settlement from 2022-23 – including investment in MetroWest to improve rail services across Bristol and the surrounding region
- Feasibility funding to re-open St Anne’s Park station in Bristol
- £3 billion for a new national Restart programme, to help people who have been out of work for over a year
- A new UK Shared Prosperity Fund, replacing EU funding, of around £1.5 billion a year; supporting regeneration with investment in people and skills, local businesses, communities and place including
- £490 million in 2021-22 for Innovate UK core programmes and infrastructure to support ground-breaking technologies and businesses.
- Over £200 million for flagship digital infrastructure programmes, including the Shared Rural Network for 4G coverage, Local Full Fibre Networks, and the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme
- £291 million for Further Education in 2021-22, and £72 million to support Institutes of Technology.
He said: “The new £4bn Levelling-up Fund is excellent news. This is something that I have been calling for, alongside my Metro Mayor colleagues, as we understand the benefits of having a local focus on prioritising projects that can have a positive impact in our communities.
“I also welcome today’s commitment to further investment in intra-city transport to get our region moving; extra funding for MetroWest rail and funding for St Anne’s Park station in Bristol. Plans for 10 Freeports across the UK to bring jobs, investment and prosperity to some of the most deprived communities were also included in the announcement and I can confirm that the West of England will be bidding to host one of these national hubs for global trade and investment.”
“I will be working with the Government to help implement plans in the West of England as quickly as possible, and add them to the package of measures I have already announced as part of our West of England Economic Recovery Plan, to ensure that we secure decent, well-paid jobs and come back strongly from the pandemic.”
Prof Steve West, Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “It was encouraging to hear the Chancellor emphasising the importance of taking a place-based approach to our local areas to help build back greener.
“Through the Local Enterprise Partnership, we look forward to working with the Government on the detail; to help ensure that the expertise and insight of our region’s businesses is applied to prioritising investments from the Levelling Up Fund and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund”.
More details of the announcement are available in the Chancellor’s Spending Review.