A House of Commons Committee fact-finding visit to Bristol, aimed at helping shape future policy-making on devolution to cities, took place on Thursday (3 September).
The intelligence gathering visit, by Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chair Meg Hillier MP, Bristol South MP Karin Smyth and PAC / National Audit Office officials, was held ahead of the Committee’s formal evidence session on Wave 1 City Deals (Wednesday 15 September). The PAC will then publish a report on City Deals at a later date.
Karin Smyth MP said: “Bristol was the only city to vote in favour of an elected mayor when given an opportunity, so it is important we are at the forefront of the devolution debate.
“There are huge economic inequalities in Bristol, thwarting the potential of so many talented local people and, three years on from the election of a mayor and the City Deal, Bristolians still await improvements to housing, skills, jobs and transport.
“As the only core city in the first wave of City Deals to have an elected mayor, I want to ensure other places learn from Bristol’s experience, which is why I was keen to organise this fact-finding visit. The outcomes will be fed in to the Public Accounts Committee’s investigation into City Deals with the aim of influencing future government policy and ensuring good value for taxpayers.”
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, added: “I was impressed by the plans for the city region. Bristol is becoming a vital modern tech hub. There are important lessons for other cities and regions about how to get value for money for taxpayers through devolved services.”
• In 2012, the Government signed Wave 1 City Deals with the eight core cities: Greater Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Leeds and Nottingham to devolve more funding and responsibilities to local places.
• The Government has since signed Wave 2 City Deals with 18 more localities in England, Growth Deals with England’s 39 LEPs and ‘Devolution Deals’ with Greater Manchester, Sheffield City Region and Leeds City Region. To date, the Government has committed £2.3 billion to the deals using funding from eight departments to support around 40 programmes over a 30 year period and should impact the lives of the 12.7 million people living in the Wave 1 City Deal areas.
• City Deals are still at an early stage of their development and it is too early to conclude on their overall impact. However, as the Government has set out its aim to continue devolving responsibility for local growth to cities and local places, the visit formed part of PAC’s examination of progress early so lessons can be identified to inform future initiatives.