Integrated city region economic development functions
The combined authority is now established and the devolution deal will be implemented with the launch of the joint Strategic Economic plan across the three Local Enterprise Partnerships. We will also be taking forward the Midlands Engine Initiative.
In this new landscape what models could best deliver the economic development functions we need in the future and how could these be funded? How can we use our new position as a Combined Authority to boost our economy on a sustainable basis?
An entrepreneurial approach to economic development
Our economy focused services need to become more enterprising – forging new partnerships, generating income and wherever possible becoming self-financing. We are interested in exploring examples of how this has been achieved. We need to look at alternative ways of stimulating private investment to build an infrastructure for the city region, which will give us an enhanced global standing. We need to research how we can become a hub where individuals, businesses and communities can thrive and deliver prosperity for the region. We need to create a long-term plan, which will lead the city region to be an economic base capable of competing with global powerhouses.
A focus on investment and assets
The landscape of infrastructure investment has been changing for some time, with a world of public sector grants and speculative investment making way for a complex mix of innovative approaches.
The future of local government will be based on how we use our own assets and support economic growth and growth comes from investment. We need to shift our focus away from revenue budgets and grant funding towards a more innovative and enterprising use of resources, seeing the city as a set of assets, not just a collection of needs. In particular this means working with the Combined Authority and at a more local level to develop new ways to invest in people and communities across the city. This will include developing the Brummie Bonds policy and exploring ways to use the WM Pension Fund to support the Strategic Economic Plan.
Driving economic growth and job creation by closing the skills gap
Birmingham needs skills matched to our ambitions for the future. As a partnership between the private and public sector, ‘Delivering Growth’ the Local Economic Partnership’s vision and strategy for growth, sets out a clear focus on six strategic enablers. One of these is focused on ‘improving our skills talent pool’, and recognises our skills ecosystem needs radical reform and a better alignment between employers and providers within a partnership that helps create a demand-led skills system.
We are interested in understanding how to create this demand-led skills system. We are also interested in understanding how to make Birmingham’s schools and colleges the best in the country at preparing young people for the world of work. For example, allowing employers to influence curriculum content. To do this we need to develop and foster relationships between schools, agencies, commissioners, employers and individuals.
Are there any global best practice examples, which we can learn from? How can we move forward with our ambitions for the region? How can we retain those skilled and highly educated young people that attend our universities?
Birmingham as a first class city
Birmingham is the UK’s second city but often gets overlooked and overshadowed by other cities that have established a clearer identity and stronger reputation. How can we improve the image and reputation of Birmingham to make it a preferred destination for investors, businesses, students and visitors? What should Birmingham’s brand be?
Birmingham as a city of culture
Birmingham has a high quality cultural offer which we know has an influence on businesses looking to relocate, attracts visitors and enhances the quality of life of our residents. Birmingham’s vibrant arts and cultural sector is a success thanks to a wide range of organisations, partners and individuals. How can that success continue to develop and grow given the diminishing contribution by the council and the public purse in funding such organisations and in this super diverse, young city how can we ensure greater equity of access to diverse high quality cultural activity.
The future role of the city council in education and the role of schools
In order to prepare our children in this rapidly changing world we need to change the way we educate them. In the 21st century educators must create a curriculum that will help students connect and understand the issues that our world faces. We need to understand what does 21st century learning look like? Where is it happening and what skills do children need in order to be successful in the 21st century? There is a continued drive towards the independence of Schools and as they become more diverse and more independent, there is a need for partnership working between schools and service providers, with the council will retain a limited strategic role in ensuring appropriate school provision, regulating admissions and ensuring services are available for those young people with special needs.
Alongside the comprehensive review of our children’s services, and the Children’s Society report “It Takes a City to Raise a Child”, we need to define more clearly the future role of the city council in supporting schools and wider education services in the city. We also need to explore how we can work more closely with schools to protect children’s welfare, for example by forging closer links between schools and social workers. How does this role link to our economic function and to the aim of more integrated “neighbourhood services”?
Delivering the Birmingham Youth Promise
Birmingham has one of the youngest populations of any city in Europe, which should be an asset in which we invest. However, current figures show that too many young people do not have the opportunity to grow, thrive and achieve the great things of which they are capable. Youth unemployment proportions vary widely across the city – with the lowest levels being recorded in the more affluent suburban areas of the city and the highest levels occurring in the inner city wards and the more deprived outer city wards.
The council has a “Youth Promise” where every young person in Birmingham aged 14-25 years old, will be guaranteed access to employment, education, training, apprenticeship or experience of work within four months of leaving a job, employment or training.
We need to ensure that all young people have the tools and opportunities they need to fulfil their potential, regardless of background or life circumstances. It is important that we develop clear ways of delivering this Promise to ensure we help all of Birmingham’s young people. How can we ensure the Promise is effective? How can we improve engagement of all young people?
Linkages between growth and jobs and local service provision
The two roles of city government in supporting economic prosperity and ensuring the provision of services that support social cohesion are inextricably linked. Successful cities need good governance, quality public services and a strong civic society as well as a successful economy.
We need to explore the economic value of our public services and the ways in which business activity can link more closely to social provision.
Models and vehicles for investing in the “Green City"
Our carbon roadmap sets out a strategic plan that highlights the key initiatives that Birmingham will aim to complete to ensure:
- the city achieves its vision of becoming a leading green city
- a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2027.
The key priority areas of the roadmap include: how should Birmingham be heated and powered in the future? How should we travel and get around the city? How can we improve the energy efficiency and affordable warmth of buildings? And how can we create decarbonised local energy generation capacity? How can we make sure that Birmingham achieves its vision of becoming a leading green city?
A “Smart City”
We are clear that Birmingham’s road to being a Smart City will involve radical change in the technologies and information we use to deliver service outcomes.
This will include Open Data, support to the digital and creative businesses of the city (seeing our information as an economic enabler) and work with community based social media to open up decision making and policy debate.
We want to come forward with clear, practical proposals for the application of new technologies in public services. How can technologies allow people to tailor the services they use (and those they contribute to) for their own needs? Where can we use IT in a radically different way, with a new vision for how technology will enable us to work more effectively?
The future of waste management
Birmingham is a fast growing city which produces ever increasing volumes of waste. We need to recognise the changing composition of waste and consider how best to reduce, re-use and recycle. We need to understand how to manage it through the most cost effective means whilst preserving the appearance of our neighbourhoods and green spaces. How can we engage residents and businesses more to reduce waste?
A new Integrated Transport Authority has been created, overseen by the seven council leaders. The long term vision for Birmingham Connected needs to be integrated with a plan for the whole metro area and the use of new powers and funding to plan investments. The HS2 Growth Strategy is absolutely central to that vision because we need to make sure we get the maximum benefit from the investment by regenerating the areas around the new stations and by connecting HS2 to the whole region. We will need to explore ways to develop innovative WM investment vehicles to realise our vision.