West of Britain powerhouse ‘waiting to happen’

A new report has been presented to senior politicians, business and education leaders at the House of Lords highlighting the potential for a new economic powerhouse in the west of Britain.

The Powerhouse for the West report, commissioned by the Great Western Cities partnership of Bristol City Council, Cardiff Council and Newport City Council, provides a strong evidence base for a cross-border partnership, presenting recommendations that would drive improved infrastructure, investment, internationalisation and inclusive growth across a region of seven cities, 4.4 million people, with 10 universities, 156,000 businesses and a £107 billion economy.

Five key areas of collaboration are highlighted in the paper, including: an industrial strategy linking sector strengths; integrating road and rail improvements to enable faster connectivity; an internationalisation strategy which promotes the region’s industrial strengths; establishing a productivity and innovation observatory which makes better use of our data; and piloting and measuring tailored approaches to connecting the most deprived communities with the region’s highest growth sectors.

The potential powerhouse – which is yet to adopt a formal name - 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. To support this venture the Great Western City partners have already been joined by Bath and North East Somerset Council, Gloucestershire County Council, Swansea Council and Swindon Borough Council.

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. Achieving this will mean unblocking the bottlenecks across the M4 and M5; connecting people and communities in our most deprived areas with skills and employment opportunities.”

Huw Thomas, Leader of Cardiff Council said: “This is just the start of the conversation and our next step will be to set up a leadership vehicle to shape this initiative and drive it forward. This report talks about complementing rather than competing with existing strategies and partnerships. We would be developing a partnership between public and private sectors across this seven cities region, with representatives from local enterprise partnerships, businesses and universities and with the backing of national government.”

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