The Localism agenda will become a platform for significant growth across the South West, according to experts at a conference hosted by Willmott Dixon.
Guest speakers at the event hailed the Localism Bill as a real opportunity for Bristol and the South West to effectively identify the right priorities for investment to create new jobs and grow the economy.
Tim Jones, chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “Localism is a Government commitment to move away from state control, handing back to the community and business community who will be able to make local decisions. It gives us ownership of our own destiny, not to create short-term fixes but long-term solutions. Without question, this will be seen as the greatest single masterstroke that Government could have conceived.”
Colin Skellett, chair of West of England LEP, added: “For us, localism is the ability to take power back from central and create the opportunities for businesses that reflect local needs. With the state of the economy, this is a particularly important time to be pushing the local agenda. No-one knows better what’s needed locally than local businesses and, through their energy and engagement, we can make great strides together.”
The ‘Business Not As Usual’ conference, facilitated by Willmott Dixon in Bristol, created a debate about what localism would mean for the South West region. Speakers also included Cllr Simon Cook, leader of Bristol City Council, who stated that localism would help the region grow against projected public spending budget cuts of £25m, in addition to the £55m of savings already achieved. He said: “We need to seize the opportunity to promote growth and keep Bristol a good place to live, work and do business. We’ve been very clear to Government that localism is crucial to these ambitions. This is why our current negotiations for a City Deal are so important for Bristol and the whole region.”
For Willmott Dixon, inspiration could be taken from the Localism agenda for all businesses to work more efficiently together and deliver increased benefits to the South West region. John Frankiewicz, CEO of Willmott Dixon Capital Works, said: “Localism represents a key strategic change which affects us all. It is a way of empowering local communities and local businesses to act on their environment and shape their own future. Localism is a fantastic opportunity for us to embrace local initiatives and to stimulate regional growth; rather than just implementing a localism blueprint, we can take inspiration from localism to create and drive a local agenda to deliver benefits to the regional economy.”
Neal Stephens, managing director of Willmott Dixon in the South West, added: “The ethos behind localism needs to be adopted across all levels of the business community so we are all committed to benefiting the local economy. For Willmott Dixon, localism is about engaging with communities to be part of the local tapestry – from utilising local suppliers and subcontractors to committing to creating apprenticeships and local jobs. On any of our projects, Willmott Dixon endeavours to spend as much as 80 pence in the pound within the region to ensure that the local community and economy is reaping the benefits of the investment into a particular project. Localism shouldn’t just be considered as a government initiative, it’s an opportunity for us all to take a strong ownership in the role in we can play in integrating our businesses within the local economy.”