Thursday, June 20, 2019

News: Economic projects promote pride for partnership

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Economic regeneration and high profile business investments have been the main highlights showing how far Rotherham has come in a short space of time.

Projects such as the £12m improvements at the bus station, Gulliver's Valley, the new university centre and the £50m McLaren investment were all used to show how a shared ambition for the borough is becoming reality.

The Rotherham Together Partnership was launched in September 2015 and the Rotherham Plan 2025 was officially launched in 2017. It provides a framework for partners' joint efforts to create a borough that "is better for everyone who wants to live, work, invest or visit here."

The plan is based around five "game changers": building stronger communities, skills and employment, integrated health and social care, a place to be proud of and the town centre.

The partnership brings together a wide range of organisations, including major public bodies. Its Business Growth Board is responsible for the delivery of strategies which feeds into the overarching plan and includes indicators on business starts, employment and skill levels. The Rotherham Employment and Skills Strategy has recently been endorsed by the Council's cabinet.

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At a partnership event at New York Stadium, Council leader Cllr. Chris Read, who is also the partnership chair, said: "We said that our game changers would alter people's lives and today we can see those ambitions transformed into reality with much more still to come.

"Then we had secured £12m to refurbish the bus station, but the building was still falling down.

"Then McLaren has announced a £50m investment in the borough, but we hadn' t actually seen so much as a JCB, let alone a Royal visit.

"Then we had a plan for a higher education building in the town centre, and planning permission for a theme park, a tram extension that seemed like it might never be finished, and a social care challenge that stretched as far as the eye could see.

"And today? Our University Centre Rotherham open, with the first students studying. The bus station rebuilt and reopened. Tram train up and running, with more than half a million journeys taken already. Rotherham has been the fastest growing local economy in Yorkshire for over a year now.

"What began as words and commitments two years ago is taking shape, in bricks and mortar and jobs, in opportunities realised, and in a different way of working."

Cllr. Read also discussed the importance of the devolution deal and how Rotherham continues to benefit from being part of the Sheffield city region (SCR).

He said: "Two years ago it was quite common for people to say to me that we shouldn't bother, because we would only lose out to our neighbours anyway. Other places were cynical about whether the deals were really worth doing at all.

"Today every single local authority in the region – every single one - wants to do a devo deal. The TUC, CBI and Institute of Directors issue joint statements on the subject.

"Last week we secured £7m to complete the retail centre at Waverley, and saw announcements that the UK Atomic Energy Agency will bring some of its work to develop fusion technology – the holy grail of limitless energy – to the borough, alongside a potential £10m investment in battery technology in the McLaren supply chain.

"At the same time we are asking the government for up to £40m of investment to support better public transport and walking and cycling as part of the Transforming Cities Fund. It would be the biggest single investment in sustainable transport for years.

"No one seriously says we shouldn't bother any longer. The reality has changed the perception. Just imagine what we could do if we actually got on and implemented the actual deal!

"That's how much things can change in two years. Attitudes shift. Rotherham is finding its way in the world again. By challenging the established order of things."

Rotherham Together Partnership website

Images: Rotherham Together Partnership

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