In the Zone

Nick Clegg was in Bristol, at an event at the Watershed talking about the future of Bristol’s creative industries. Sounds like a nice safe topic to pick in the week before the local elections. No chance of him having to field questions about public sector cuts, NHS ‘reform’, taking away benefits and support from people with disabilities, etc, etc. You can watch it here:

I asked on Twitter if the issue of Bristol getting a Local Enterprise Zone had come up, and if it would be sector-based on the creative or green industries. The answer came back “Yes, lots.” I’ve now asked what Clegg’s response was, but haven’t heard back yet.

As people may know, Bristol was one of the 12 cities awarded a Local Enterprise Zone in the recent Budget. There will be 21 in total, but the other places will be decided by a bidding process. Before people get too excited, an LEZ is basically about giving beneficial tax status to companies, rather than direct Government investment. The figures attached to the LEZ are therefore based on what it will cost the Exchequer in foregone taxes, not how much money in being put into the Zones. Some of the Zones have already been announced; for example in Manchester it will be around the airport.

I asked in Parliament about the Bristol Zone, and was told it was up to local people to decide. (Not sure whether that genuinely means local people, or just the council?) I can think of a couple of places where the Zone – if it was a geographical zone – could be based, such as the Science Park or the area around Temple Meads where the arena was going to go. However, it is also possible that the Zone could be sectoral, i.e. aimed at a particular type of company to encourage the establishment of a ‘hub’ in Bristol. It seems to me that either the creative sector, or the environmental technology/ green industries would be a good choice.

What do people think? And if there’s a decision to be made locally, how do we best go about influencing that?

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  • Vince  On April 27, 2011 at 1:04 am

    Here is a HD video of when Nick Clegg came to Watershed Bristol

  • thebristolblogger  On April 28, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    It appears local people will not be deciding. The council’s ‘Director of Futures’ (please, don’t get me started on that job title) has ‘Supported Bristol’s case for an Enterprise Zone at Temple Quarter’ over the last month.

    Further questioning reveals the city council chief exec has “brought forward the proposition” – not the people nor our elected politicians.

    The evidence base for the Chief Exec’s proposition is not clear. Her economics is notoriously shaky and Temple Quay and the creative industries enjoy considerable lobbying strength in Bristol.

    I understood engineering at Avonmouth was another proposition. Why has this been ditched without discussion?

    Are tax breaks for creatives for the benefit of all the city? Or do they represent the power of vested interests and strong lobbies?

    • kerrymccarthy  On May 2, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      I met with people representing the owners of the old Parcelforce building a couple of years ago – full of exciting plans, turning it into a commercial arts centre, performance space, recording studio, etc… but nothing has happened. Wonder if that is part of the reckoning? The area certainly needs development but there’s a strong lobby calling for it to be made a transport hub. As for creative industries, I don’t think you should be cynical about supporting them – it’s an area of strength for Bristol and potentially a great stepping stone for talented young people from local community – if we can sort out equal access to opportunitites.

      Key thing as you say though is that there ought to be a discussion about this, not a rubber stamping of the exec’s decision.

      • thebristolblogger  On May 3, 2011 at 9:35 pm

        I’m cynical about the creative industries because I’ve seen little hard evidence that they are ‘the future’ rather than a fashion and I tend to distrust people who spend time predicting ‘the future’ as they tend to be obsessed with fashion.

        What I do know is that the most successful economy in Europe – Germany – is based on manufacturing and engineering excellence and that isn’t about to change.

        I appreciate that creating value through making things is considered old fashioned. Although I personally think that the commanding heights of the creative industries’ stock – social media, google etc – are vastly overvalued.

        This country has already taken one wrong turn with its reliance on financial services – all the rage in Bristol a few years back. Let’s hope we don’t take another wrong turning with a punt on another slightly opaque service industry.

        At least, as you say, let’s have a proper debate rather than being rolled over by a strong lobby who quite clearly have the council’s Chief Exec and ‘Director of Futures’ in their back pocket.

  • woodsy  On May 8, 2011 at 11:33 am

    It will probably come as no surprise that I tend to agree with Mr Blogger’s analysis.

    Indeed I would add the so-called ‘creative industries’ to what were from the 1960s onwards called the bullshit industries (broadcasting, public relations and advertising).

    In other news, our geographically challenged ‘betters’ now inform us that the Bristol Enterprise Zone could actually end up in Bath or Weston Super Mare

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