OXFORDSHIRE’S City Deal will help offset cuts in local government, the Deputy Prime Minister said when he visited the county yesterday.
Nick Clegg was visiting the Harwell science campus to formally sign the multi-million pound deal with leaders of Oxfordshire’s councils.
The Lib Dem leader said the investment of £55m by central government as part of the City Deal could help create jobs at a time of council cutbacks.
He said: “There is less money to go around, we all know that. Local authorities are having to get more bang for their buck because of the terrible disaster in 2008.
“One way to make sure that we produce more growth and opportunities for young people is for Whitehall to let go and allow local councils here in Oxfordshire to make more decisions. Yes, you are looking at less money from central government but a lot more more freedom.”
Between 2010/11 and 2017/18 central government funding for Oxfordshire County Council’s revenue budget will fall by 39 per cent – or £96m.
This has meant cuts in adult social care, transport and funding to advice centres.
But yesterday the Government announced it had approved the Oxford and Oxfordshire City Deal which means £55.5m of government funding can now be controlled locally to boost innovation and business growth and create jobs.
This is coupled with £67m to create four “business incubators” around the county to help small science companies take their produce to market.
County council leader Ian Hudspeth said the City Deal cash would help Oxfordshire tackle the issues which were facing funding cuts.
He said: “The best thing to do is to improve the skills of people in Oxfordshire, improve the housing and then we will be able to deal with the homelessness issue.”
The City Deal will pay for major transport schemes as well as jobs in hi-tech industries and construction, while building 7,000 homes across the county will be speeded up.
It was officially signed by Mr Clegg, Mr Hudspeth, Oxford City Council leader Bob Price, minister for cities Greg Clark, Oxford University pro-vice chancellor Ian Walmsley and Ian Wenman, vice chairman of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said: “This City Deal is about central government, local government and local business putting differences aside and working together to invest what’s needed to create the jobs, infrastructure, skills and housing we need for our local economy to fulfil its truly extraordinary potential.”
City Deals have already been offered to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield.
CITY Deals are the latest attempt to kickstart economic growth – and come in the wake of decades of criticism that Britain’s economy is too focused on London.
Initially the deals went to eight cities – Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle.
A second wave offered last year covered 20 other areas, including Oxford.
It is anticipated that the deal will bring nearly 19,000 hi-tech new jobs to the county, with a further 31,400 in construction, and 500 new apprenticeships, the majority in hi-tech sectors such as advanced engineering.