It was just under a year ago that we launched our new Regional Economic Strategy.
Shaped by extensive research and input from across our eight councils and wider stakeholders, it sets out how we plan to address key economic challenges, including the impact of Covid-19, the climate emergency and unprecedented technological advances.
In the period since then we have continued to see further increasing pressure on the economy with the ongoing war in Ukraine, high inflation and the cost-of-living crisis which is having a profound effect on people, communities and businesses.
Following a decade of the lowest wage growth since the 1930s, and with public sector and government budgets as strained as ever, our response is becoming increasingly difficult.
However, despite the tough economic conditions, there is still much to be positive about.
This year we made the biggest leap from City Deal to City Region working.
In February, Glasgow City Region was selected to share £100 million UK Government funding as one of three pilot Innovation Accelerators along with Manchester and the West Midlands.
In June, working with private sector partners we submitted the Region’s bid to the UK and Scottish Government for a Clyde Green Freeport.
Cabinet agreed to a Regional approach for the development and delivery of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF), the only region in Scotland to take this approach. And we submitted our collective 2022-25 investment plan proposals to the UK Government for £73.9 million in August.
We issued the action plan for our economic strategy, showing progress on the 12 programmes, some of which will be supported through SPF funding.
In the year since COP 26 in Glasgow, we launched the Clyde Peatlands project and in the first year of operation of the Clyde Climate Forest project over one million trees were planted in urban and rural areas across the Region. This figure will escalate steeply next year.
Our £1 billion City Deal, now in its eighth year, remains one of the largest and most advanced in the UK. Notable progress in the past twelve months includes the start of works at both the Govan – Partick bridge and on the first road opening bridge on the Clyde at Renfrew – Yoker. At Motherwell Muir Street improvement work began on the railway station which will complement the new transport interchange and enhance local and Regional transport and pedestrian connectivity. A range of public engagement activities have also been underway – in Glasgow for the George Square designs and in East Dunbartonshire on plans for Bishopriggs town centre.
City Deal contracts continue to provide vital support for the Region’s businesses and communities. In fact, £140 million worth of tier one City Deal contract have been won by local companies and over 170 job opportunities delivered, most of which are from priority groups.
The private sector continues to show confidence in the Region with recent recruitment activity by major companies including Barclays, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley bringing thousands of jobs to the city centre in the burgeoning financial services sector. Major high-profile investments include the new purpose-built £11.9 million BBC Studioworks facility at the city’s Kelvin Hall, opened in September. And Bruntwood Sci-Tech have announced a £60 million investment in Glasgow city centre’s tech and digital cluster with the acquisition of the 14-storey Met Tower and a commitment to an adjacent net-zero carbon new build.
Looking to the year ahead…
We have a plan in place with our Regional Economic Strategy. It is the right plan with the right priorities, and we need to pull together with government partners to deliver it and address the many challenges we face. We will continue to review and adapt the plan in response to the evolving economic challenges, in discussion with partners and with the support of the Region’s Intelligence Hub.
We look forward to a number of City Deal milestones including the opening of the M8 bridge linking the north of the city and the new urban neighbourhood at Sighthill to the city centre and the completion of Ocean Terminal at Inverclyde.
We remain committed to our City Deal programme and will continue to manage challenges around increasing costs and issues around sourcing resource and materials. With this in mind, a review of the City Deal programme will be completed in the early part of 2023 for discussion with government partners.
A number of Regional projects will continue to progress in 2023.
The announcement this month by the Scottish Government confirming the Clyde Metro as a key priority for future transport investment represents a significant milestone in our ambition to establish a modern, sustainable, integrated public transport system for the Region. We look forward to the Transport Scotland Delivery Plan in the new year that will provide further insight on the prioritisation of the STPR2 recommendations.
We hope to announce further exciting news around our plans for Clyde Mission – western Europe’s largest untapped development opportunity. This will complement work underway to develop a detailed economic and financial business case on Vacant and Derelict Land (VDL) across the Region early next year which will show the potential costs and benefits of bringing VDL sites back into use.
In the early part of 2023 projects and funding will be announced for the UK Government Innovation Accelerator and will stimulate further substantial private sector investment in our innovation economy.
With our Shared Prosperity Fund Investment Plan proposals confirmed this month, we expect to receive the year one £11 million tranche of funding imminently, which will be distributed to Member Authorities, to progress the delivery of activity in the coming months. Our allocation for the next financial year is £20 million.
Progress on key programmes to support government Net Zero ambitions will continue. Findings from a public survey underway on Electric Vehicle Charging (EVC) infrastructure across the Region will help us to understand capacity needs of people using electric vehicles and support decisions on private sector EV infrastructure investment. A new Regional group has been set up to look at the funding, skills and supply chains required to develop and roll out a Home Energy Retrofit programme that addresses the climate emergency and the ongoing cost of living crisis. And Green Business Support across the Region is being explored through SPF funding, with a study planned to look at commercial retrofit and identify opportunities to support green jobs and grow our local low carbon economy.
A series of initiatives are also being driven forward to support inclusive growth including work around Community Wealth Building and Child Poverty.
Programmes from our Regional Economic Strategy are being reviewed through a child poverty lens to identify further elements that can be built in. Work is underway on making Glasgow City Region a Living Wage Place, the first Living Wage region in Scotland. And we will establish a Regional Community Wealth Building Anchor network tosubstantially grow our ambitions for community wealth building by extending beyond the eight member councils.
While each of our eight councils has distinct strengths and economic challenges – there is no doubt that we can achieve more collectively – whether through working in partnership with government, delivering Regional projects, access to further funding opportunities, or via shared resource and expertise such as the Region’s Intelligence Hub.
The only truly metropolitan region in Scotland, Glasgow has made enormous progress in 2022. We are the only region in Scotland to be named as one of three UK Innovation Accelerator pilots and to take a regional approach to the Shared Prosperity Fund, bringing ever more investment to our region. Our City Deal continues to remain the biggest and most advanced in the country and delivering at a faster pace, with some major project milestones next year. We have a strong plan in place and one that is intelligence driven, and we look forward to accelerating ever greater successes for our partnership in 2023.