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: http://bit.ly/g8tUAJ
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?