In anyone’s book, increasing the prosperity of the UK must be one of the key priorities for the medium term. We welcome the Government’s policy to develop a new industrial and commercial strategy: investing in success to improve competiveness will help the country compete more effectively on the world stage.
We also recognise the need for strong local leadership, so that all available investment is targeted effectively. As an Alliance, we are committed to ensuring that the Heartland’s economic success continues, not just for the sake of our businesses and residents, but for the greater good of the UK.
Since its inception in December 2014, the Strategic Alliance has expanded and now brings together nine county and unitary councils and four local enterprise partnerships.
We cover a population of nearly 3.5 million and have 175,000 businesses providing 1.6 million jobs. With an economy larger than Wales, the area generates around
£92.5bn GVA and we’re a net contributor to the exchequer.
But, just like any business, past success is no guarantee of future success - you need to keep investing to make it grow and remain competitive. Across the area, there is the potential to increase our economy by a further £20bn per annum if the right investments are made. Even then, we will still need to improve further if we are to catch up with the best across the rest of the world.
The formula underpinning our approach is simple – we need to find better ways to connect people to jobs, training opportunities, skills and homes right across the Heartland area. Places such as Oxford, Aylesbury, Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Cambridge are some of the fastest growing in Britain, but e a s t - w e s t connectivity between them falls short of what we need. If we can improve this, through more road, rail and digital investments, we will help unlock opportunities for economic growth and support the provision of around 100,000 new jobs and 120,000 homes.
When the Government asked the National Infrastructure Commission to examine the economic potential of the Oxford – Milton Keynes - Cambridge arc, we welcomed the recognition that the success of this global cluster is crucial to the UK economy. With our Local Enterprise Partnerships taking the lead, the Strategic Alliance recently submitted its vision of the way forward for the Heartland area.
Strategic leadership and co-ordination of investment in critical infrastructure formed the core of our submission, delivered by the Alliance partners’ commitment to establish a statutory Sub-national Transport Body for the area. The Strategic Alliance has a critical role in providing the certainty needed for investors to commit to the UK.
With the autumn statement looming, we are looking for the Government to make an early commitment to the following:
a) funding the full delivery of East West rail from Oxford to Cambridge. Alliance partners have already committed nearly £46m in addition to undertaking enabling works at their own risk.
b) investing in a new East West expressway road. A concept described in a recent Highways England report as having a ‘strong case’ for investment which would ‘…address this missing link in the national infrastructure.’
c) supporting the potential of key transport interchanges as ‘hubs’ to attract investment, and
d) improving first mile/last mile travel options for people to travel more efficiently.
We know from discussions with our business community that commitments of this nature will generate confidence in the future of our economy and the longer term competitiveness of the UK in global markets.
And the benefits of investment in our infrastructure spread far and wide. Improved infrastructure across the Heartland will act as an alternative to the radial routes that are focused on London, creating opportunities to make better use of its overstretched infrastructure. Whilst investing in our infrastructure will also improve access to and from the Midlands and beyond to the Northern Powerhouse.
The Strategic Alliance was established out of a shared ambition: to provide that critical strategic leadership to get things done. We’re certainly up for the challenge as the economic prizes for the Strategic Alliance and the UK as a whole are simply too great to ignore.