Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, has welcomed announcements made today that support investment in infrastructure and house building but warns more is needed to tackle the issues facing communities and support the continued economic growth of cities.
Speaking in response to today’s budget announcement the Mayor welcomed promises of investment that included making £15.3bn available to support house building, particularly a further £2.7bn expansion of the Housing Infrastructure Fund, and making £1.7bn available to cities and regions to fund transport infrastructure.
The Mayor has stated however that more will need to be done to meet the growing challenges cities like Bristol face in housing a growing population, supporting the development and wellbeing of citizens and continuing the economic growth the city needs to underpin that support.
Responding to that announcement, Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “We are developing a strong vision for meeting the challenges Bristol faces and realising the ambitions we have for the city. Today’s announcements provide some cause for hope that the government recognises these challenges but there is still some way to go to match that support to our ambition.
“We’re in the middle of a huge local housing challenge and whilst we welcome the promise to invest £44bn over five years to meet the national need it will be some time before the detail of these proposals becomes clear. We’ve made a start on upping house building with major developments being planned for Hengrove and Temple Meads with the Cumberland Basin also in our thoughts. To keep that momentum going we will need government to invest and support Bristol in building homes people can afford to rent and buy.
“Housing is one of the major challenges we face but we are also fighting hard to meet the pressures being put on adult social care and children services by record demand for their services at a time when government is removing funds to support vulnerable people. Today’s announcement lacks the necessary promises to support these services whose failure to deliver will only pass the pressure onto health services and rapidly eat away at the £10bn promised to support hospitals.
“Likewise the combined £301m pledged to education comes as the money received by local authorities to support schools is being slashed across the country by much more than this proposed investment.”
This budget announcement is the first since Bristol and other major UK cities called on the government for increased powers and investment to help Bristol achieve its potential. The Mayor and leaders of other Core Cities presented their Invest Reform Trust green paper in Westminster in September and asked government to adopt a local focus to policy to ensure more local investment and in turn a stronger and fairer Britain.
Marvin Rees continued: “This budget sets out a raft of proposals to secure a strong economy post-Brexit but again the government misses an opportunity to invest in cities as the economic drivers of this country. It’s well established that economic growth also depends on investment in people to ensure that jobs are filled, people have somewhere affordable to live, the health and wellbeing needs of the vulnerable are met and we’re providing opportunities for communities to meet their potential.
“We have made an offer to the government to fuel the national economy by growing our own local economies, something we’re very good at in Bristol. Investing in cities, in communities, is needed now before the challenges we face put us and other cities in a position where we are not contributing to the economy but taking from it.
“The council faces a financial challenge of closing a £108m budget gap over the coming five years. We’re dealing with the triple hit of the consequences of austerity, a growing population and rising costs of delivering services. We are putting in place robust plans to meet this challenge but to do so we must have a fundamental change in how we and the government operate. Without a shift in government policy towards supporting cities we will continue to face cuts to local services, alienation of communities and the resulting loss of potential that comes when people lose sight of opportunity.
“We call on government to make good on the commitments it’s made today that can have a positive impact on cities and communities but to remember our offer of being part of an inclusive conversation about this nation’s future.”