First introduced by the then UK Coalition Government in 2011, City Deals were intended as a means to encourage local economic growth, and importantly they devolved the economic decision-making away from central Government. The vast majority of City Deals focus not just on cities themselves, but on the wider regions and hinterlands surrounding cities.
When the £1.13 billion Glasgow City Region City Deal was signed in August 2014, it was the first to be signed in Scotland. It subsequently received almost £19 million from BEIS to fund business, innovation and growth projects, and almost £5 million from DWP to fund employability schemes over a three year period. ekosgen provided consultant support at the early project development stage.
Over the last four years, the eight member authorities have been engaged in the delivery of almost 30 projects across three strategic themes: Infrastructure, Skills & Employment and Innovation and Business Growth.
The Cathkin Relief Road in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire was one of the first completed transport infrastructure projects alleviating congestion and improving access to employment areas. The Clyde Waterfront scheme, aimed at unlocking vacant and derelict sites for employment and housing, is taking shape through proposals including for the Govan-Partick Bridge, and the Water Row development, which is part of the wider Central Govan Action Plan. More recently, plans have unveiled for a new visitor centre as part of the expansion of Greenock Ocean Terminal in Inverclyde, being delivered by Inverclyde Council and Peel Ports.
The Tontine Centre, one of the key innovation and business growth projects in the City Deal, has grown to become arguably an important hub for start-up and growth stage Tech businesses in Scotland, not just Glasgow. The Tontine aims to support the growth and impact of businesses through providing a collaborative office space and a variety of business support services.
The Glasgow City Region City Deal has also supported one key employability project in particular - Working Matters – this project has worked with over 3,000 benefit claimants, many of whom are long-term unemployed and face significant health and wellbeing issues, to help them progress towards sustained employment, whilst supporting them to address and improve their health and social circumstance. ekosgen has been working closely with City Deal partners over the last three years to evaluate its delivery, and will soon be examining and reporting on its achievements.
There have since been deals announced covering Scotland’s six other cities, and a number of regional growth deals have either been proposed or are being developed, in areas such as Ayrshire, Argyll & Bute, and the Islands authority areas of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. Despite some criticism of City and Region Growth Deals, they are shaping the strategic delivery of economic development in Scotland.
However, with many projects now well underway, and a number of City Deal projects having completed delivery, attention is beginning to turn to issues of evaluation and benefits realisation – in other words, what are the City Projects delivering? A recent Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee noted the efforts the Glasgow City Region City Deal to incorporate inclusive growth as a measure by which to assess outcomes alongside targets for GVA and job creation. This is a key focus for all Scottish City Region Deals.
There is also the question of ‘what next?’ for the Glasgow City Region. With comparable cities in England having progressed to securing additional City Deals, there is understandably appetite for increased investment to capitalise on the regeneration and growth that Glasgow has seen since the financial crash of 2008. It will be interesting to see what does come next for the Glasgow City Region.