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Posted by on Dec 9, 2016 in News, Others, West of England Initiative Events | 0 comments

West of England Initiative Meeting – Bristol Harbour Hotel, 8th December

West of England Initiative Meeting – Bristol Harbour Hotel, 8th December

It is no exaggeration to say that 2016 has been a year full of political surprises and events that will have a profound impact on the future the country for years to come. With these changes come many challenges, but also great opportunities for the West of England.

As year comes to a close, 150 business leaders gathered for the final Initiative Evening of 2016 in the beautiful setting of the newly renovated Bristol Harbour Hotel to discuss how we might make the most of the exciting opportunities in the coming year.

West of England devolution

President Professor Steve West kicked off proceedings with seasons greetings, welcoming three new members to the Initiative: Bristol Aero Collection Trust, Grant Thornton and EDF Energy.

He highlighted some of the key regional developments of the past year: a new Mayor, Marvin Rees; the result of the EU referendum; the approval of Hinkley Point C; and finally the West of England Devolution – it was this final point that was to be the focus of the evening.

Looking to the future, devolution presents a fantastic opportunity for the region but it is vital that business capitalise upon this to truly reap the benefits. We must think about the level of ambition we should be aiming for and what kind individual we want as a Metro Mayor for the West of England. Steve set out six attributes for his ideal candidate who would: connect, communicate, challenge, collaborate, combine, catalyse, champion.

We need to find the best Metro Mayor possible to ensure we can compete on a national stage with other city regions like Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.

Bristol leading in social investment

Next up, Simon Cooper, Board Member and Managing Director of Quidem Productions, congratulated the Bristol & Bath Regional Capital CIC on winning the National Social Investment Deal of the Year at the 2016 UK Social Enterprise Awards.

This award was in recognition of the deal they finalised last year with South Bristol Sports Centre, using an innovatively structured bond offer to build 6 new five-a-side football pitches, allowing them to generate a sustainable revenue stream, as well as increasing their social inclusion programmes.

This kind of social investment has promising potential and is likely to become an increasingly important route to funding in years to come.


A video message from Marvin Rees

Mayor Marvin Rees was unable to attend the evening in person as he was in Guangzhou, China representing Bristol and building the profile of the region internationally.

Nevertheless, he was able to send his regards with a video message where he set out his vision for how the city can be improved through collaboration with the business community and other city stakeholders as part of the new City Office initiative.

He set out three initial challenges for the City Office with ambitious plans to address homelessness, create work experience opportunities, and clean up the streets of Bristol. He finished with a Big Ask on the business community for support in these three initiatives.

Devolution roundtable

Next on the agenda, Matt Griffiths, Director of Policy at Business West, introduced a roundtable discussion on devolution with three questions to focus on:

  • How does the West of England keep up with other regions (e.g. Greater Manchester; West Midlands)
  • What does business want from future devolution deals?
  • How can we ensure that the Mayoral Combined Authority works for the West of England as a whole?

This discussion would feed into the manifesto that Initiative is working on as a business challenge to the Metro Mayor and Combined Authority, stating the level of ambition we would like to see from this new Mayor.

Each table was asked to sum up their discussion in three words which were shared with the whole room. Of these, two pertinent responses stood out: “One Voice Together” and “Right First Time”. Let’s hope these messages are built into the devolution process over the coming years.

Networking, mulled wine and food for thought

The evening closed with a networking session over mulled wine, followed by a fantastic two course dinner provided by the Bristol Harbour Hotel.

For more information on how to get involved with the West of England Initiative, contact Julie.lever@businesswest.co.uk.

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