My Lords, the subject of this debate, enabling economic leadership in cities, can be interpreted in a number of ways, but the aim is clearly a constructive discussion on how we encourage economic activity in our cities and give people the tools, the skills and the space to flourish. With ever more people moving to cities, it is clear that our economic future is dependent on these urban centres. As we well know, where you have a critical mass of people, there is a growth in creativity and economic activity; thus cities should be nurtured. I think it is precisely this sentiment which is the driver behind the city deals agenda currently being implemented. The drive towards localisation, and the understanding that local communities themselves best understand what they need for economic growth, is a really positive and ambitious step.
Twenty-six city deals have been announced and each of these has its own unique formula or mix of priorities in deciding how to spend funds and create an environment for growth. In the limited time available to me, I shall make a few points on my own city of Glasgow and on the £1.2 billion Glasgow and Clyde Valley city deal. It is hoped that this will create 29,000 jobs over the next 20 years and unlock a further £3.3 billion of private investment across the city region. The proposals as to how this money will be used are available for those interested. Up to 20 major infrastructure projects across the city region, including rail and road, have been proposed. Among several employment schemes there is a £9 million scheme proposed that will work with more than 4,000 vulnerable and unemployed residents currently in receipt of employment benefit, along with life science research and medical technology projects. This is an exciting time for the city.
For this strategy to be the kind of success that we would wish for, true leadership and vision are required to make the most of it. This is an opportunity for generations to come and should not be squandered. First and foremost, there has to be complete transparency in implementing these projects. A fair chance must be given to the SME community to benefit from contracts, as ultimately they are the real drivers for future economic and job growth. Part of our consideration has to be about public procurement so that some of the benefits of this injection of public funding filter down to SMEs. A lot of thinking and discussion has taken place in Scotland on the subject of public procurement—certainly, as far as my own involvement is concerned, for the past decade and a half—but I know for a fact that it goes much further back than that. We are sadly still far from the ideal situation of a fair bite of the cherry for SMEs, but perhaps that discussion is for another time.
I would suggest that we offer affordable space in the heart of the city for small-scale manufacturers such as weavers, potters and all manner of artisans. When do young people see someone making something with their hands and then selling it for a profit? These are basic principles to encourage enterprise and at the same time bring back vibrancy, creativity and industry to the city centre. I would add that along with affordable industrial and commercial space must come better public transport and affordable, accessible parking. In Glasgow, those at the helm of the revival of the city have to take into consideration the current prohibitive access to the city by their draconian use of parking meters and other road regulations. According to a BBC report on 2 September 2014, Glasgow city imposed £3.2 million of bus lane fines in 2013, one of the highest figures in the UK. I refuse to believe that there were so many people in Glasgow deliberately breaking the law.
I would suggest that, when we come to implement these major projects, true leadership means talking to ordinary people in the street—the workers and the small businesses. We have become too accustomed to dancing to the tune of interest and lobby groups. While there is most definitely a place for these groups as experts on many social and environmental issues, there is also something to be said for speaking to those who simply work, live and breathe in the city.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for securing this debate and I congratulate the Government on the city deals initiative. I am confident that true leadership at the local level will bring rich rewards to our cities and communities.