Coventry and Warwickshire City Deal

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 14th February 2013.

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Photo of Chris White Chris White Conservative, Warwick and Leamington 5:00 pm, 14th February 2013

I do agree.

Secondly, a city deal needs to have wide-ranging private sector support. Too often, we create proposals and then put them to business, and that approach does not generate the best results. A good city deal should be co-produced with small, medium and large local businesses, and should seek to remove their barriers to growth.

Thirdly, a city deal needs to have widespread political buy-in. City deals should try to build as strong a consensus as possible among local authorities, so that businesses get the policy clarity they need and feel the confidence they need to invest in the future.

The Coventry and Warwickshire city deal meets all three criteria, and is an example of how a city deal can make a significant difference to the local economy. The bid focuses on advanced manufacturing and engineering. As co-chair of the associate parliamentary manufacturing group, I am pleased to see this vital part of our local economy recognised and championed.

Coventry and Warwickshire have a great manufacturing heritage, and the area is home to a range of world-beating manufacturing and engineering businesses. Our city deal area has one tenth of all English motor manufacturing jobs and the second highest proportion of employment in advanced manufacturing and digital media by each LEP area. My constituency alone has fantastic companies such as AGA Rangemaster and Dennis Eagle, which are examples of the pioneering businesses to which our area is home. Infrastructure is already in place with our world-class universities, further education colleges such as Warwickshire college and transportation links—and we should use these assets to our best advantage.

We are at the heart of the UK’s manufacturing, and as I and many other hon. Members have said repeatedly in debates in the past, manufacturing has the potential to bring jobs and to rebalance our economy towards a more export-orientated economy. This city deal recognises that the next 10 years are not going to be like the last. That kind of forward thinking is to be applauded. We need proposals that can adapt to the changing economic circumstances—national and international—that we face. I think this city deal does exactly that. The deal has been created in partnership with businesses, and I believe that this shows the thrust of the city deal’s proposals.

We all recognise that the bedrock of a strong manufacturing sector is skills. If we are going to grow advanced manufacturing and engineering in our region, we need to have the skills in place to enable businesses to grow and make the products that are wanted around the world. This city deal cuts right to the heart of this problem, and highlights the skills shortage that is holding back our local economy. According to the latest estimates, there is a shortage of about 18,000 high-level engineers in the west midlands. The Coventry and Warwickshire area is likely to need up to 25,000 level 2 and level 3 engineers to replace our existing work force. If we are not able to meet that demand, businesses will not be able to grow and we will have to spend more income trying to retrain staff or poach them from other businesses, reducing funding for investment, research and development —holding back growth in the long term.