The West of England Initiative Meeting: Brunel’s ss Great Britain
Over 125 business leaders and special guests attended the Initiative meeting on the 17th March, which focused on the issue of devolution, and what devolved powers from central government would mean for our region.
The evening began with an insightful tour of Brunel’s beautifully restored passenger steamship, the ss Great Britain. Guests were able to witness the sights, smells and sounds of a C19th voyage, before the meeting moved across to the Great Eastern Hall where Professor Steve West, President of Bristol Chamber & Initiative and Matthew Tanner, Chief Executive of Brunel’s ss Great Britain started proceedings.
Steve West welcomed new members Colliers International to the Initiative and went on to highlight the outstanding work that DEKI has been doing to empower entrepreneurs living in developing countries by providing access to microloans and training.
James Durie, Executive Director of Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative shared a substantial activity report which included work on the devolution debate, Place-Making (LEP Map) and the Great Western Cities Initiative. James’ speech highlighted the breadth of work the Initiative undertakes and ended with a pledge to continue pushing the devolution agenda.
Members and guests were then treated to an exciting and exclusive presentation by Di Mainstone, founder of the Human Harp, which gave a taste of how the Human Harp instrument will make music with Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Nina Skubala, Initiative Manager, gave an update on Go Green. To date, over 500 business professionals have attended the extensive event programme and 115 businesses are working through their Go Green Action Plans. Nina went on to talk about Bristol Is Open, and touched on the vast amount of projects that are driving change in 2015 including Bristol Loves Tides, Festival of the Future City, World Host Cities and Venturefest.
Nina gave an update on new membership benefits which included: use of the Engine Shed Business Lounge, an invitation to become Business Fellows at University of the West of England, and the ability to collaborate on-line through our soon to be launched micro-site. She also extended an invitation to meet members to provide a personal update on our Initiative activities and further opportunities for engagement.
Finally, Ben Harrison from Centre for Cities gave an excellent presentation on ‘Where next for UK city devolution?’ Ben emphasised the importance of cities for the UK economy and how they are leading the UK’s economic recovery. He continued to talk about how combined authorities are being given increasing importance, and spoke of how the devolution debate was set to increase, with all major political parties pledging to promote the process across the UK. Ben, to finish, briefly spoke about what the devolution debate would mean for Bristol, he warned of complacency and argued that there must be strong, clear and accountable governance locally, and when making the case to Government for devolved powers, so Bristol does not lose out.
Professor Steve West rounded off the evening by making a call to arms for businesses to push the devolution debate, so that the West of England is not left behind, and so this region can continue to thrive and grow. Attendees then networked over drinks and a buffet served by the ss Great Britain staff.
Download the presentation slides