More good news as £80m growth deal is announced

This week in addition to our City Deal with Stoke on Trent we got the go ahead on one of the Government’s biggest growth deals in the country which will see major business, transport and skills development projects creating up to 5,000 jobs.

The £80.2 million available from 2015/16 onwards will support a range of projects which form part of our long-term economic plan drawn up by our Local Enterprise Partnership. The announcement is great news for local people and for our businesses and sends out a clear message that Staffordshire is very much open for business.

In Staffordshire we have shown time and time again that we can deliver big projects – i54 South Staffordshire, Redhill, Kingswood Lakeside and the new automotive skills hub in Tamworth to name but a few. We have completed major road improvements to aid business expansion and are about to begin a huge project on the A50 near Uttoxeter. The hard work doesn’t stop there though – we still have much to do, but the growth deal will make it happen. Exciting times lie ahead for the county as we stride to bring more higher paid jobs and prosperity to people.

Small businesses based in the county looking for finance to support their growth will be happy to hear that our business loans scheme has £1m of funding available this financial year.

Our Staffordshire Business Loan Fund has gone from strength to strength since it started in 2009 – supporting over 100 businesses and creating or safeguarding 860 jobs. Over the past five years, the fund has invested just over £3m, with £1m still available to support small businesses this financial year.

We know that many small businesses still struggle to secure finance from traditional sources, so I would encourage anyone looking to expand to get in touch with the scheme. You can find out more at www.bcrs.org.uk you can also get general advice by calling the Staffordshire business helpline on 0300 111 8002.

I’ve just spent a few interesting days at The LGA annual conference in Bournemouth which focused on the challenges and opportunities facing local authorities over the next few years. It was good to hear from colleagues and peers in other parts of the country and to get a feel for how we are doing here in Staffordshire.

The theme of this year’s conference was on Investing in our Nation’s Future: The First 100 Days of the Next Government. It lays out the ‘must do’ tasks that the new government will have to tackle in May 2015. It was interesting to listen to MP Brandon Lewis’s speech about the changing habits of British shoppers on the high street and also MP Toby Perkins on how local authorities are taking to help grow the local and national economy and to protect front line services.

I also got the opportunity to give a presentation and lead a workshop on Realising talent: employment and skills for the future. I was able to talk about our innovative work and plans to increase skills through our Education Trust and the new auto-motive hub in Tamworth.

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