David Cameron will today announce a massive programme of investment in Birmingham and the West Midlands including new tram lines and business parks, improvements to city railway stations and new departments at city colleges.
One of the aims is to ensure the city has world-class local transport links ready for the opening of the new high speed rail line in 2026, which will have its own dedicated station at Curzon Street, in the Eastside district of the city centre.
Cash comes from the Government’s flagship Local Growth Fund backed by David Cameron and Conservative peer Lord Heseltine, which next year is to distribute £10 billion to councils and local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) for projects which create jobs.
There will also be £11.2 million for a Centre of Excellence for Advanced Technologies atBirmingham Metropolitan College, to train the engineers and scientists which Midland manufacturers and technology firms urgently need.
Other major schemes given the green light include a new 16.5km public transport system known as ‘Sprint’, running from Birmingham city centre to a planned new high speed rail station near the NEC in Solihull.
This uses road vehicles similar to buses but they operate in a similar way to trams. the Government funding comes to £34.3 million next year and £357.3 million over five years.
But many of the schemes will also benefit from cash provided by local authorities and other official bodies, as well as private sector investment.
Ministers are today making announcements about grants across the country but the centrepiece will be the award to Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP with senior ministers expected to visit Birmingham and the wider region.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “This is great news for Birmingham.
“The announcements in this Growth Deal will help kick-start a range of major projects that will support the delivery of an improved transport system for the city, particularly with some further Metro extensions, and the creation of new jobs for local people.”
David Cameron said: “For too long, our economy has been too London-focused and too centralised. Growth Deals will help change all that.
“They are about firing up our great cities, towns and counties so they can become powerhouses.”
The LEP is chaired by Andy Street, the managing director of retail giant John Lewis, who said: “This growth deal is a clear vote of confidence in the economic renaissance of Greater Birmingham and a sign that Government has faith in our ability to deliver.”
Cllr Bob Sleigh, leader of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, said: “The Growth Deal is great news for the whole city region.”
Some of the schemes with funding from the Local Growth Fund announced today are listed below with many projects receiving additional funding from other sources:
* An aerospace academy close to Birmingham Airport, run by Solihull College – £830,000
* A groundbreaking food technology and food science centre run by University College Birmingham – £340,000
* A Life Sciences Centre run by Bournville College in partnership with University of Birmingham and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – £3.5 million
* A four-hectare business park for life sciences businesses, close to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – £5 million
* A dedicated training facility for smaller engineering firms which provide vital products and services to larger manufacturing firms such as Jaguar Land Rover – £550,000
* Centre for Advanced Automotive Training and Skills at South & City College – £260,000
* A business park for advanced manufacturing firms near Junction 6 of the M6, creating 1,500 jobs – £2 million
* Centre of Excellence for Advanced Technologies at Birmingham Metropolitan College – £11.2 million
* A new 16.5km public transport system known as Sprint from Birmingham city centre toBirmingham Airport and a planned new high speed rail station near the NEC. This uses road vehicles similar to buses but they operate in a similar way to trams – £35 million
* A Sprint scheme connecting Birmingham city centre with Quinton along the Hagley Road – £8.1 million
“Any notion that the economic revival in the North isn’t under way is a fallacy,” said Jo Sellick, managing director and founder of the company. “Job creation and burgeoning start-ups are signs of regional growth.”
The 44-year-old recruitment boss claimed that consumer confidence is returning, business leaders are feeling more secure and therefore hiring more staff. “Company bosses became very conservative over the downturn, stockpiling cash as they were not sure what was around the corner. But war chests will not generate money.”
With offices in Derby, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Stoke, the recruitment agency pays 550 contract workers on behalf of its clients every Friday, up from 350 this time last year.
The banking crisis of 2008 that bought redundancies and recruitment freezes benefited the Sellick business model.
“When permanent staff are laid off more temporary positions are created,” said Mr Sellick. “And 80pc of our sales come from temporary contracts and interim placements. Employers still need to find maternity cover, along with long-term sick replacements and project workers to keep the business ticking over.”
Placing accountants and lawyers into local government and the NHS is the core of the Sellick business, which turned over £24m last year, but its focus on temporary contracts protected it against public sector cuts.
“Coalition austerity measures didn’t affect us as tiers of senior management were removed. Departments shrunk but got busier and the interim public sector market became more buoyant,” Mr Sellick said.
Political circumstances have also generated the need for contract workers as high profile cases, such as the Baby P investigation, prompted child services to bring in short term legal expertise. When the NHS ditched Primary Health Trusts for Clinical Commissioning Groups, in an attempt to rein in spending, more accountants were needed too.
The modern career path is also geared to the interim market, Mr Sellick explained. “We work in the age of the project manager and there is a lifestyle decision now not to have a permanent job.”
He described today’s career as one based on interim assignments interspersed with stints of travelling. “This is personality dependent as some will need the security of a permanent job but we are seeing more interim movement. Candidates need to flexible, adaptable with broad shoulders and must be able to deliver,” he said.
Mr Sellick founded the business in 1997 after working for both a national recruiter and a small firm in Leeds.
“Recruitment businesses tend to be associated with high financial turnover, high staff turnover, and often with aggressive cultures, with horror stories in the industry of CV tampering and the like. I wanted to take the good bits from both the national and the boutique businesses and put my spin on and make us stand out in a competitive market place,” he said.
Research from High Fliers this month showed that Britain’s graduates can look forward to the strongest job market since 2007, but for 44-year-old Mr Sellick, finding the right staff is the greatest challenge of all.
“There is an attitude among Generation Y that they are due a living and have misconceptions about the work-life balance. This, along with the celebrity culture, makes our search for talent more difficult.”
The company’s 75 staff have an average age of 26. “Its a paradox that for a recruitment consultancy our number one challenge to grow is finding new talent,” he said. To compensate for this, Sellick’s brand team are active on social media to attract employees. “I’m not looking for Einstein – it’s a sales job. I want tenacious, remarkable and memorable people who can win trust and listen to what the client wants,” Mr Sellick said.
The company, which was awarded the Investors in People Silver accreditation last year, puts its own workforce first. “People are our biggest asset, and we work hard to ensure they have the platform to succeed by nurturing the talents of every individual,” he said.
The second strand of his own recruitment strategy is the employment and retention of women with an executive board that is 85pc female.
“I find that ladies are far better at their jobs than blokes,” he said. “Sometimes men can be one dimensional, they cannot multi-task. Women are more organised and more agile and don’t have to be told twice.”
A shortage of available assets and high price tags on office buildings, residential blocks and retail outlets in cities such as London will drive investors to look at Birmingham, respondents in the report said.
But it was Berlin that topped the index with analysts predicting that the German capital, which is cheaper than Munich, will be the most popular city in which to buy property in 2015. It was followed by Dublin and Madrid.
The Spanish city climbed 16 places into third as investors start to take more risks, the report from PwC and the Urban Land Institute revealed.
Hamburg and Athens complete the top five.
“As confidence has returned to global real estate markets over recent years, there has been a progressive movement up the risk curve,” said Lisette Van Doom.
“Investors have found prime assets expensive and hard to source, and have in turn looked to find new opportunities in recovering secondary cities.”
“Real estate investors – armed with capital from sovereign wealth funds and pension funds from Asia and North America – are moving into less competitive environments,” she said, as 47pc of respondents expressed concerns that a lack of supply would significantly impact their business.
“Because we are present in nearly every country, whenever anything goes wrong we are hit,” said one senior executive at a global advisory group.
“Our Russian business, our Ukrainian business is pretty much on its knees. Our Turkish business is impacted. It is all because of geopolitics and has nothing to do with the economy or the real estate sector itself.”
As one London investor said: “The biggest threat to us is political instability, global trauma. If you look across the planet, it’s very scary. London is relatively safe but if there is global disruption, yields in the City of London will be hit”.
Plans include a recruitment drive to create 720 new jobs and 600 traineeships by 2017 and the expansion of the Birmingham City Centre enterprise zone.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham Council, said: “Birmingham sits at the heart of a wider economic region that has seen huge growth and success in recent years, despite tough economic headwinds. Manufacturing is seeing a resurgence, as companies bring production back to the UK, and brand new sectors such as digital technology are thriving.”
This new economic strategy rebrands the City as “Greater Birmingham” and will attempt to revive the UK manufacturing industry for which the region – home to Jaguar Land Rover – was famous.
It also aims to help the area rival London when securing foreign direct investment.
A 2014 study showed that the UK’s tentative economy recovery has been driven by London, considered by some to be a “drain on UK cities”.
Independent researchers from The Centre of Cities found that the capital now accounts for around 19pc of jobs, 21pc of businesses and 25pc of economic output for the whole of the UK.
London has also been accused of “sucking up” young talent with one in three 20-30-year-olds who relocate choosing to move to the capital.
The Greater Birmingham investment fund is designed to trigger growth in the West Midlands and comes at the time when private sector jobs in Birmingham have edged up marginally by 2.2pc over the last two years – compared to 5.7pc in London.
Often perceived as the “second” UK city, it ranked fourth behind Bristol and Leeds by the number of start-ups per 10,000 people in 2012.
It comes in third place when measuring work place earnings and residents with the highest qualifications.
However, Mike Wright, the executive director of Jaguar Land Rover, said the reputation of Birmingham as a global investment centre is already established.
Manufacturing generated 46pc of the new jobs overall, with 2,000 positions created across 12 projects
Foreign investment in Birmingham created a record 4,400 jobs over the past year, as international firms sought to take advantage of the area’s talent pool and manufacturing expertise.
The jobs boost, which will add £362m to the economy, is an increase of 78pc compared to the previous year’s total, according to the area’s marketing board.
Investment by foreign firms in 62 projects across the area almost doubled the number of new jobs generated compared to the previous year, and an additional 1,663 jobs were safeguarded.
Birmingham, which is Britain’s second most populous city after London, with 1.1m residents, has long been aiming to compete with London as a global enterprise hub. In March, business leaders and politicians announced a £150m fund to help 500 advanced manufacturing companies double their growth in five years.
However, Neil Rami, chief executive of Marketing Birmingham, denied that the area is specifically trying to go head-to-head with the capital.
“We certainly don’t see ourselves in competition with London, we see it as complementary,” said Mr Rami. “London is active in some of the sectors that we do well in, but when it comes to areas such as manufacturing, we were the home of the industrial revolution and there is a new type of industrial revolution happening today.”
Greater Birmingham has played host to multiple major investments during the past year, including the creation of 300 jobs by Deutsche Bank and a £1.5bn investment by Jaguar Land Rover in its Solihull site as part of plans to develop a new aluminium vehicle architecture.
Manufacturing generated 46pc of the new jobs overall, with 2,000 positions created across 12 projects.
Andy Street, managing director of John Lewis and chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, said that investors from around the world are realising the area’s potential.
“Britain’s manufacturing revival is happening right here in Greater Birmingham. Professional services investment is surging and foreign digital firms are flocking here,” he said.
“Greater Birmingham is Britain’s shining light when it comes to exports, advanced manufacturing, and inward investment. Foreign firms sense Greater Birmingham is a city on the rise.”
Last week, in an article for The Daily Telegraph, former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy called for the UK to do a better job of selling regional cities’ progress.
Unemployment has continued to plummet in the West Midlands with 32,000 fewer people out of work in the past quarter.
There are almost more people in work than ever before in the region, after a rise of 53,000 in the past 12 months.
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows there are now 169,000 people out of work in the region, an unemployment rate of 6.1 per cent.
However, critics will point to a rise in zero hours or part-time work and despite the improvement there was actually a rise of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in Greater Birmingham, with 1,605 more claimants from December to January.
Greg Lowson, president of Birmingham Chamber and head office at lawyers Pinsent Masons in Birmingham, said: “Although the figures are mixed, it does show that unemployment remains an increasing problem in Greater Birmingham.
“While in the wider West Midlands, fewer people were out of work, the rise in Birmingham can again be laid at the door of the skills shortage.”
The fall in unemployment in recent months has been marked, as joblessness had been as high as 293,000 at the peak of the recession, with a rate of 10.7 per cent.
It has reduced alongside a rise in people in work, which rose above 2.6 million in the latest quarter for the first time on record.
Employment Minister Esther McVey said: “More people than ever before are in work and securing a better life for themselves and their families.
“Employment is now at a record high in the West Midlands – with 53,000 more people in work than this time last year.
“Thanks to this Government’s long-term economic plan, we are getting people into work, we are making work pay, and we are transforming people’s lives.”
A £1 billion devolution package for Manchester agreed in November has nowhere near been matched in the West Midlands.
But Mr Cameron stated his commitment to Birmingham: “Birmingham is Britain’s second city, it is a powerhouse. The Government’s approach to Birmingham is to build on its strengths.”
He said that major regeneration projects from the investment New Street Station to backing for the Curzon Street Masterplan show the level of Government confidence in the city.
“There’s massive attention to Birmingham. If you look at Birmingham’s growth deal, there’s more money going into that than London’s growth deal even though London has a bigger population.
“We announced how important the Birmingham Curzon partnership is going to be, it’s a massive regeneration opportunity.
“We recognise Birmingham’s status as Britain’s second city as a powerhouse and it will get the attention it deserves.”
He offered encouragement to the region saying: “The point about the Northern Powerhouse is that through the cities of the north of England, all of who are smaller than Birmingham, we can achieve a better balance in the country if we link them together.
“That’s not anti-Birmingham, that will be good for Birmingham, not least because, it’s going to be the hub for HS2 going from London to Birmingham and Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
“Don’t for one minute think Birmingham is going to be forgotten in all this.”
He also rejected the view that Birmingham’s economic success was in spite of the Government.
“I think that’s unfair. If you look at Jaguar Land Rover it’s a massive success, but their engine plant is built on an Enterprise Zone, put in place by the Government.
“Look at investment in road schemes, rail schemes. I’ve just been with Virgin Media who are taking on 6,000 people, many of them in the West Midlands.
“The Government’s long term economic plan is helping to create jobs in the West Midlands.”
One reason suggested for the imbalance has been that Greater Manchester is more unified in its aims and identity than Birmingham and its neighbours and that Birmingham’s political leadership is problematic – with Kerslake and Trojan Horse showing particular weakenesses.
“The City Council leadership in Birmingham faces challenges, everybody knows that. Kerslake has re-emphasised that and you can see that with the problems there’s been with children’s services and Trojan Horse.”
But Mr Cameron said he is confident Birmingham’s political leaders can turn the situation.
“I’ve got massive confidence in the city, the City Council does need to address some of the challenges.”
However he was dismayed to see that the Library of Birmingham at the centre of disputes about its funding.
Mr Cameron said: “It’s an amazing building, brilliantly done. But the whole concept was at the beginning that it would be a trust, not held in trust by the council. Then you would have private beneficial donors and that didn’t happen.”
Jobs in customer service, retail and hospitality will be on offer to the city’s unemployed as business chiefs gear up to unveil the newly named Grand Central Birmingham.
The £150 million centre, formerly known as The Pallasades, will be packed with big name retailers – including flagship store John Lewis.
Over half of the 1,000 jobs on offer at the new shops and restaurants will be at the 250,000 sq ft John Lewis store, which will be one of the retailer’s biggest stores outside of London.
The Birmingham Growth Alliance Partnership has been set up in a bid to ensure that the jobs created through Grand Central will be won by “local people”.
Shilpi Akbar, co-chairman of the partnership, said: “With over 1,000 jobs being created at Grand Central, this partnership is committed to reflect Birmingham’s diverse community and showcase the skills of the city’s jobseekers.
“Our work to date has been to develop and co-ordinate high quality training across the city in the customer service, retail and hospitality sectors to ensure unemployed people have access to the range of job opportunities which will arise from Grand Central.”
Construction has now begun on the final phase of the major new shopping and dining destination, which is due to open in September.
The half a million square feet space is intended to be an equivalent to shopping destinations such as Buchanan Street in Glasgow, the Victoria Quarter in Leeds, and The Hayes in Cardiff.
It is already at 85 per cent occupancy. Among those who have signed up to be part of it are Office Shoes, Paperchase, TM Lewin, Blott, The White Company, Joules, Cath Kidston, Kiehls, L’Occitane, Fat Face, The Perfume Shop, Carphone Warehouse, Newsflow and Monsoon Accessorize, Ed’s Easy Diner, Carluccio’s, Giraffe, Pho, Caffe Concerto, Handmade Burger Co, Yo! Sushi, Tapas Revolution, Square Pie, Crepe Affaire, Tortilla, Nandos and Costa.
Richard Brown, director of the development, added: “Grand Central is committed to providing local jobs for local people.
“We want to ensure that the opportunities created by the new development are accessible to all and benefit Birmingham.
“The investment John Lewis has made to Birmingham further supports the growth of the city and maximises the opportunities available for local people to work for a leading premium retail brand.”
Lisa Williams, head of branch at John Lewis Birmingham, said: “We have been working alongside the partnership for almost two years to develop a pre-employment training package dedicated to ensuring the jobs created by our new shop are accessible to the local community.
“Our aim as an employer is to reflect the community in which we trade and we’re really excited to welcome new partners to the John Lewis Birmingham team in the coming months.”
A jobs roadshow will be held throughout this month, with events promoting employment and training opportunities for Grand Central being staged at all 14 of the city’s Jobcentres, as well as a variety of community venues.
An ambitious £600 million masterplan aiming to help create “Birmingham’s Canary Wharf” has been launched.
The 20-year Snow Hill Masterplan, which covers the Snow Hill and Colmore areas of the city, has been launched as part of plans to make the city a global finance hub.
Birmingham is already the UK’s largest hub of professional and financial services firms outside London but business leaders say the plan stands to help create 10,000 high-paying jobs and boost the city’s economy by £600 million a year.
City leaders said the Snow Hill Masterplan showed an ambition to take on the likes of London, Frankfurt and Zurich and attract more professional services jobs with 2.2 million sq ft – the size of 28 football pitches – of new office space.
The plan also outlines major changes to roads and a significant redevelopment of Snow Hill station – the main connection between the business district and London.
The scheme would see new commercial buildings replacing the station’s multi-storey car park in a bid to encourage more firms to base in Birmingham, following in the footsteps of Deutsche Bank, which has seen employment in the city rise from 60 to more than 2,000 in recent years.
Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said he was hopeful more firms would growing investors such as DTZ, Deutsche Bank, RBS and Hogan Lovells.
He said: “Birmingham is putting in place the building blocks for a global business and financial centre. The city is already investing heavily to ensure that firms have everything they need to thrive here.
“The Snow Hill Masterplan provides a bold and exciting proposal for how Birmingham can continue to grow its thriving business and professional services sector. With time, we want the city to replicate the success of Canary Wharf, with areas like the Snow Hill district forming the cornerstone of this vision.”
The Snow Hill Masterplan, which the council announced alongside Colmore Business District, would see 4,000 homes built within the area to cater to young professionals looking to move into the city.
The plan also outlines how Snow Hill station’s car park will be replaced with new office buildings, while a new concourse area will be created and new walking routes provided through the station.
It also includes the transformation of the A38, to create a new urban boulevard connecting the neighbouring Jewellery and Gun Quarters, and the creation of a new urban neighbourhood in the Steelhouse Lane area.
It is designed to support existing investments including the £30 million restoration of the historic Grand Hotel, the arrival of HS2’s new construction headquarters at Two Snowhill – which will employ 1,500 people – and the extension of the £127 million Midland Metro network.
Gary Cardin, chair of CBD, said: “The Snow Hill Masterplan paints a picture of new landmark developments that will expand CBD and provide a sustainable supply of high-quality office and mixed-use space, supporting strong business and residential growth for decades to come.”
Professional and financial services generate £15 billion annually in the region, with more than 21,000 companies employing some 220,000 people.
Inward investment body Marketing Birmingham has sought to encourage investment in the city by promoting the fact operational costs can be up to 55 per cent cheaper than London.
The arrival of HS2 – which itself will be based within the confines of the masterplan when it moves to Two Snowhill this year – is expected to strengthen this offer.
A six-week period of public consultation on the Snow Hill Masterplan will run from February 9 to March 23. A dedicated web page with information will be available in due course at www.birmingham.gov.uk/snowhillmasterplan.
Curzon Street would become one of the largest new stations in Britain for over a century and includes a plan to build 2,000 homes and 6.4m sq ft of office space in the area.
The Emir is said to have told Mr Cameron of his desire to invest in UK projects related to the £50 billion high-speed rail scheme, with Birmingham firmly on Qatar’s radar.
The potential for Middle East wealth to flow into the West Midlands was welcomed by business leaders as the clock ticks down to the proposed launch of building of the first phase of HS2 in 2017.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “We should celebrate that any major development in Birmingham attracts global interest so it is no surprise that Curzon Street is attracting widespread attention.
“It was always the case that HS2 would need to be backed by private investment.”
Qatar opened talks with the Treasury last year to invest up to £10 billion in key infrastructure projects such as energy plants, transport schemes or the Thames “super-sewer” under London.
The Qataris are also trying to take over Songbird Estates, the group that owns London’s Canary Wharf, to add to other holdings in London, including Harrods and Chelsea Barracks.
Mr Blackett added: “The prospects of Qatari investment is compelling and on the face of it something which will doubtlessly be pursued with vigour along with any other expressions of interest.”
Support for HS2 has grown among the business community in Birmingham, with over 80 per cent saying the project would have a “significant or slight positive” impact on the region, according to a Chamber survey.
The Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan will be one of the biggest urban regeneration schemes in Britain, transforming about 350 acres of the city centre.
The proposals form the biggest redevelopment related to the high-speed rail link project as part of a 25-year vision to realise the potential of neglected areas of Digbeth andEastside.
Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore has pledged that the regeneration would boost the city’s economy by £1.3 billion each year with more than 14,000 jobs, 148 acres of new employment floorspace and 2,000 new homes.
The developments will be focused around the new city centre station, Birmingham Curzon, and Sir Albert has said he wants to see major progress well in advance of the station being completed in 2026.
He told the Post earlier this year: “We are not hanging around for the station to start operating in 2026, we are looking to activate the economic growth which HS2 can give rise to.”
It is forecast that there will be 1,760 passengers boarding, alighting and changing at Curzon Street station in the morning peak hour and approximately 1,870 in the evening peak hour when it is completed in 2026.