Stoke-on-Trent is a city on the up. After decades of neglect it is time for us to seize the opportunity and bring the improvements we need.
There are positive shoots that our recovery will be stronger locally than other parts of the country, especially given the Centre for Cities stats recently which show our local businesses were hiring more workers than almost anywhere else in the UK. In additionally Zoopla recently ranked Stoke-on-Trent as being in the top five busiest housing markets.
I believe we have some of the key ingredients which can help see us really shine. Great location at the heart of the country that’s well connected to the rest of the UK, one of the friendliest places with a dedicated workforce, and one of the greenest cities to live with so many places on the doorstep just waiting to be enjoyed.
We also have a proud and strong heritage, yet, for far too long we’ve lagged behind elsewhere. But why should we? There are some key things we must do to see our area back on track to the bright future we all want to see. We’ve already started to deliver on these.
We recently launched our Powering-up Stoke-on-Trent Prospectus and last week we also launched Silicon Stoke. These are both focused on the changes and improvements we want to deliver, as well as building on investments already secured, like the £34.6 million Transforming Cities Funding being invested in improving local bus and rail links. The key areas where investment will be prioritised includes transport, our economy, skills and better health. Improving the quality and range of job opportunities, that pay a better wage will be integral to achieving all this for everyone.
Silicon Stoke especially is focused on this, helping attract in the skilled high paid jobs in digital industries like games design and e-sports. We need to build on the strength we see in Staffordshire University and the emerging firms we see locally in this sector. Retaining more graduates locally and building more of a cluster of digital companies in Stoke-on-Trent.
The £19.2 million investment in creating a 60-mile full-fibre gigabit system, will make us the best place for these fast-growing firms to locate. The first gigabit connected city in the entire UK, communities across Stoke-on-Trent must take full advantage of these new opportunities.
And it’s not just new opportunities in digital firms we want to see come to our area, there are a whole range of success stories we want to see calling Stoke-on-Trent home. From advance technical manufacturing in industries like ceramics to the relocation of the Home Office we have recently secured. This is the change we are delivering to increase the range of opportunities and life chances our people can aspire towards.
We must continue to secure more investment to build the next chapter in the story of success. There are a number of things still to fix if we are to really level up opportunities for everyone across every town and neighbourhood that makes up our city.
At the end of this week we will submit our bids to the Levelling up Fund the City Council and MPs have been working on. Collectively we will be working to secure as much from this fund as possible for our area. But this is only one part of levelling up. It builds on the hundreds of millions we have already helped secure from Government for Stoke-on-Trent since elected.
In the past Governments have thought they could ignore and neglect Stoke-on-Trent. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown never visited Stoke-on-Trent when they were Prime Minister. They took us for granted.
But no longer - we will not cease in ensuring the Government doesn’t forget the importance of Stoke-on-Trent and why it should continue to prioritise our city for the investment we deserve.
- This article was first published in The Sentinel, 15th June 2021