Glasgow’s City Deal

by Ken Gibb

I have been reading about the newly announced though much trailed Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal [1]. The Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Region is made up of eight local authorities and consists of 1.75 million people accounting for a third of Scottish GVA, a third of Scottish jobs and just under 30% of Scottish businesses.

The City Deal, a 20 year project, supported by both the Scottish and UK Governments and signed up to by all eight local authorities (2) is valued at £1.13 billion. This is for the core infrastructure fund described as a ‘once in a generation’ investment. Complementing this will be a range of life science, business support and labour market schemes. Over the life of the City Deal, its proponents argue that it will create an additional 29,000 jobs across the city region (on top of 15,000 construction jobs), active labour market work with 19,000 unemployed residents, and it will lever in a further £3.3 billion of private sector funding.

What is going on here and what are its prospects? The funding involves £500 million from both the UK and Scottish Governments and a minimum of £139 million for the local authorities. The funding is designed to further grow transport infrastructure investment, provide sites for housing and employment and improve public transport over 10 to 20 years. This will be complemented by investment in the life science sector (e.g. stratified medicine led by my University and other partnership in the field between business, academics and medicine), other business support ventures (including a key role for the University of Strathclyde in a business incubation centre). Moreover the labour market policy work will be targeted at construction jobs, helping people on Employment Support Allowance youth unemployment, and pilot labour market progression schemes.

The City Deal is suitably dressed in governance, monitoring and outcome measurement requirements with public investment tied into delivering on these objectives over annual and five year periods throughout the 20 year life of the programme. The scheme will operate within an infrastructure fund assurance framework in order to deliver value for money for the public investment.

It builds on the investment in the Commonwealth Games, the M74 extension into the city (plus the further investment to the M80), the improvement to the Glasgow subway, the Southern General NHS hospital investment and the Clyde Gateway regeneration company – just focusing on Glasgow itself.

What is innovative about this announcement? Beyond the funding package, the City Deal will establish an independent commission on urban economic growth that will analyse the outcomes of the infrastructure fund against agreed indicators. Second, the councils involved will have to manage the capital investment programme including bearing the responsibility for any required prudential borrowing and managing any shortfalls that might emerge relative to the overall programme and specific sub-period elements. Despite the large scale public investment, the councils will be under financial pressure to deliver and do this as a pooled partnership.

What questions remain to be answered? First, it would be churlish to criticize this initiative at one level – the resource involved and the potential long term impact of the infrastructure work, plus the considerable commitment to targeted labour market policies are commendable and potentially hugely important for Glasgow. Second, the unanswered question for me remains how this all fits strategically with ongoing and previous large scale investments in the city region and the underlying analytical understanding of the wider urban economy and its drivers. How does it all add up? What will the transport investment actually deliver? Third, what has been learned from the experience thus far in the English city regions? Again, there is no sense of acknowledging evidence of engaging with the evidence from England, even if there are important institutional differences. What worked and what did not?

It is of course a high level narrative at this point and understandably lacks the detail one might crave for. There are many issues and challenges (e.g. what does the 18 September mean for the programme?). We have seen this year that Glasgow can both deliver huge complex projects (with governmental support) and work through complex legacy evaluation frameworks. It would only be fair to say that the programme builds on emerging strengths such as working with the leading edge of the city’s Universities and focusing on key labour market issues that reflect chronic disadvantages in the most deprived parts of the city region. The programme continues the Commonwealth Games theme of building on and linking to success such as the new hospital investment in Glasgow and the initiative in stratified medicine. It will need to apply these lessons carefully snd thoroughly.

Good luck.



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  1. The eight participating councils are: Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde councils.