Question for Short Debate
My Lords, Bradford is a unique and fascinating place, and the fact that so many of your Lordships have chosen to speak today is an indication that I am not the only Member of this House with a passionate interest in this metropolitan district. I thank all noble Lords for their support in speaking today.
The view of Bradford from those who do not know it first hand is coloured by a range of clichés and negative media stereotypes, many of which are anachronistic and often caricatured. However, of course the true picture of Bradford is more complex, more nuanced and certainly more positive than these stereotypes would have you believe.
The district is the fourth largest metropolitan district in England after Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield. It is home to half a million people, a place characterised by diversity, huge contrasts in geography, wealth and built environment, communities of many cultures and ethnicities, and a place which typifies the complex range of socioeconomic, environmental and political problems and opportunities, which is the stuff of contemporary public policy.
What surprises many visitors and is perhaps unique among metropolitan districts is that two-thirds of the district is rural. The city of Bradford’s urban and cosmopolitan qualities contrast with, and complement those of, a number of vibrant towns and a host of Pennine villages. Furthermore, this diverse human settlement is set within a spectacular Yorkshire landscape of upland moors, wooded valleys and productive farmland. This multifaceted environment provides the public bodies within the district with distinct and complex planning and delivery challenges when attempting to balance the conflicting needs and interests of the economy, the environment and communities.
It is 12 years since the inner-city riots with which we are often still associated. In that time, our local economy has waxed and waned in line with national economic cycles, although underlying and positive structural changes have begun to take root. It is also noteworthy that during this period community relations have been mostly good and have improved, despite a dynamic picture of inward migration. The presence of many other, smaller communities and the growth of mixed ethnicity is resulting in one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan communities outside London.
Bradford is probably one of the few places where relations between different faith communities are such that the Council of Mosques has provided financial support to the Jewish community to enable it to complete major repairs to the synagogue. The development of good community relations is supported and enhanced by groups such as the charity Near Neighbours—I declare my interest as chairman—which works at grass-roots level, encouraging people from different ethnic groups to share in community activity.
Bradford’s population is now 524,600, and its growth is forecast to continue, reaching 640,000 by 2033. However, along with this dynamic population change, the district has significant economic inequalities. Eleven per cent of the population is in the most affluent decile and 40% is in the least affluent decile of the United Kingdom.
Bradford is a big economy, creating £8.3 billion of added value to the UK, forming the eighth largest economy in England and amounting to a fifth of West Yorkshire’s businesses and output. It has strengths across a range of sectors. The council and its business partners have agreed to promote it as “The Producer City”, providing a distinctive economic identity for Bradford based on real strengths in key industries and businesses across the district’s economy.
Bradford has a low-wage, low-skills economy, and over the next 10 years the working-age population of the district is projected to rise by 2,000 people per year. This population growth is driving a real need for jobs growth. To maintain current employment rates of 64.9%, an additional 10,000 people will have to find employment by 2021. Improving education and skills levels is essential to future prosperity.
The council is working with a range of business partners on the Get Bradford Working programme, investing in apprenticeships, skills development and the creation of industrial centres of excellence, all of which are paying dividends. We are seeing major companies now repaying this growing confidence by investing in major developments.
The Government are currently consulting on a West Yorkshire combined authority, which Bradford wishes to see progress. Work has now begun on the long-awaited £260 million Westfield shopping centre, and with the formation of the new private sector-led Producer City board there is increasing momentum for a significant upturn in the economy. Government support for Bradford’s economic ambition, and the work of the new Producer City board with the Leeds city region LEP, will be crucial. I therefore urge the Minister to extend Bradford’s city centre growth zone from December 2014 to March 2017. I also urge her to commit to a meeting with the Producer City board this year to explore what further support the Government might be able to offer Bradford’s economy, in particular the development of its engineering capacity.
Given the significant population growth in the Bradford district and the clear potential for significant economic growth, it is both surprising and disappointing that the key rail route through Bradford has not been included in the Government’s provisional plans for electrification between 2014 and 2019. Electrifying this route, which links Bradford with Leeds and Manchester and also provides a major commuter link with the towns along the Calder valley, would have a range of benefits for the wider region as well as for Bradford. These would include unlocking economic potential, reducing congestion on the M62 motorway and decongesting other major routes, and would also make a major contribution to carbon reduction. This line connects 2.5 million residents to Leeds, Bradford and Manchester, three of the UK’s largest cities.
Education standards in Bradford have historically been low, and this has held the district back economically. However, over the past decade and recently in particular, improvements in attainment have accelerated. The excellent partnership approach which includes community and faith schools, academies and free schools working together and challenging each other, has been praised and recognised by Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted.
A considerable number of Roma families move to and settle in the Bradford district. Over 6,800 Slovakians and Czech Roma have established themselves in the district since 2000. Many of the migrants come to the district with low levels of educational attainment and little experience in the formal employment sector, along with huge health issues and large families. They therefore require extensive support to integrate. Levels of turbulence in these communities, due to instability of employment, have an impact on schools and other services. A national Roma integration strategy would enable the Government to influence the policy towards Roma in their countries of origin, as well as their integration in places such as Bradford. I urge the Minister to consider working with Bradford to develop an effective Roma integration strategy.
I hope the Minister will appreciate from the contributions she will hear today that there is a commitment from people and organisations in Bradford to use every opportunity to address the challenges facing them in a positive way. The requests I have made of Her Majesty’s Government would provide a very welcome helping hand.
My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, on providing the opportunity for us to focus our attention on the city of Bradford. It is very fitting that she has tabled this debate given her tireless years of service to Bradford, as a local councillor and then as leader of that council for a number of years. I also look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford.
Bradford is a great place. I came to live in the city at the age of one when my parents migrated to the UK from east Africa, so I have grown up in Bradford, I went to school there, and I have worked for most of my professional life there. Most importantly, I have life-long friends in Bradford and am proud to call it home. The city has had its ups and downs. To be brutally honest, the past few decades have not been kind to this once hugely prosperous city. It should be remembered that we were once the wool capital of the world: no more. The decline in that industry, however, is only part of the story.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, said, we have also suffered from negative media stereotypes. The burning of Salman Rushdie’s book in the late 1980s still haunts us. Racial tensions, which resulted in two major disturbances, led Bradford to being described as a city of segregated ethnic communities living “parallel lives”. No, these and other such stories have not helped us. However, we have worked hard to rise above this negativity, not only as a major and growing centre for manufacturing, with over 25,000 employees in that sector, but as a tourist destination. Besides the fact that we are blessed with beautiful and rugged rural areas, we became the first UNESCO City of Film with attractions such as the National Media Museum, Bradford City Park, the Alhambra Theatre and Cartwright Hall. Without doubt, Bradford also deserves the title of curry capital of the UK. Most recently, all our diverse communities came together, in a show of solidarity and cohesion, to give the English Defence League its marching orders when it had planned another of its disruptive marches in our city. That shows how far we have come.
However, we can only do so much. The economic climate over the past few decades has hit us hard, especially these past three or four years, by bringing us some of the most severe cuts to local authority spending and severely impacting our growth and redevelopment. High unemployment continues to be a persistent issue, especially for the growing population of young people who have also suffered from what were low, but are now thankfully improving, levels of educational attainment. We continue to have some of the most deprived areas in the country, with high rates of child poverty and infant mortality, and not surprisingly the gap between rich and poor is even greater. All these issues, coupled with the rise in fuel poverty and the number of food banks and stubbornly high levels of poor physical and mental health, pose many challenges for the city’s already stretched public services.
This is where the social capital of local people has been, and continues to be, key in tackling many of these issues. Many local people are already active in addressing these challenges. In fact, more than 20% of Bradford’s residents are engaged in volunteering, community groups or civic roles. Much of this crucial work is channelled through committed and hard-working voluntary sector services. I am proud to be patron of a number of these: for example, the Bradford Court Chaplaincy Service, the first multi-faith volunteer court service in the country; the Bridge project, which works with those misusing substances; Sharing Voices, a multi-ethnic mental health and well-being service; the Equity Partnership, which works with LGBT communities across the Yorkshire region; and Bradford Cyrenians, which for 40 years has been delivering services to homeless people. But they and others like them are struggling to keep delivering these invaluable services.
We all know that it is the small local agency, often supported by volunteers, which gives back to the local economy by creating jobs and providing local solutions to help those who are the most vulnerable find support while maintaining their independence. The local authority in Bradford has, to its credit, been innovative and creative with its support for these independent sector providers, but innovation and creativity can only go so far when you have had your budget cut ruthlessly and disproportionately. In view of the Government’s desire to promote localism and the concept of the big society, what further support are the Minister and the Government able to give to the city of Bradford to keep our crucial voluntary sector services delivering, developing and going?
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, for her passion and her balanced contribution in initiating this debate on Bradford. I, too, welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and look forward to her first contribution in this House.
I was brought up in a place called Farsley in the borough of Pudsey, three miles from Bradford and five from Leeds. I have kept my eye on Leeds and Bradford over the years, even though I now live half way between Halifax and Huddersfield. I have watched the exit door of Bradford, and I give three examples.
There have been firms of solicitors in Bradford—of national repute—which have said “Oh, we are going to open up in Leeds”—not open a branch in Leeds but shut the door in Bradford and take the whole place to Leeds. That has not been helpful to Bradford. When I was a lad there were five building societies based in what is now the Metropolitan Borough of Bradford. One remained, the Bradford Permanent, which merged with the Huddersfield and is now called the Yorkshire Building Society, the second largest in Britain. It put up a new headquarters a couple of miles the Huddersfield side of Bradford. Only last year, it announced expansion plans which involved putting 800 people in the city of Leeds. Is this the first move out? It is not good for Bradford. My third point concerns the threat of the National Media Museum leaving Bradford; many noble Lords may recall a short debate about that in this place. I have highlighted three developments that have not been good for Bradford, and that is in addition to the issue of manufacturing, which others are going to speak about.
This debate is about opportunities and constraints. One opportunity which is coming is HS2. Would you believe that it terminates in Leeds? One leg goes to Manchester and the north-west, one leg to Leeds. Compare and contrast: the Manchester terminus is to be parallel to Manchester Piccadilly station, and there is a spur which will enable trains to get to Manchester Airport, Liverpool, Runcorn, Warrington, Preston, et cetera. On the Yorkshire side we are to have a hammerhead terminal in Leeds that will not connect with Leeds City station. It will mean legging it somewhere between a quarter-mile and a half-mile from the London train. I do not believe that this is good for Bradford, and neither is it good for the rest of West Yorkshire, whether it is Halifax, Huddersfield, Keighley, Skipton, Harrogate or Wakefield. There is a danger, if it goes ahead, that the railway system will be ossified, so that there can never be through routes. This is important: it would mean an incredible constraint on connectivity in West Yorkshire, and it is something that government can do something about.
My Lords, I, too, give thanks for the speech given by the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton.
At the last census, 84% of people in Bradford considered their level of well-being to be good or very good. That is 3% ahead of the national average, which is not surprising—Bradford is in “God’s own county” of Yorkshire. The statistics show the resilience of the people of Bradford. Bradford does not need pity, it needs positive commitment. Bradford is often spoken about from a distance, or as an illustration of certain national problems. The church, however, has a different perspective, an insider perspective. In 2005 the churches in Bradford set up an organisation called Bradford Churches for Dialogue and Diversity, to help bring together the different communities to learn from and share with each other. The government-funded Near Neighbours programme has provided small grants to many local projects. One of these brought together Muslims, Christians and Jews in a Muslim majority neighbourhood to share meals. This led to the Muslim community helping a local synagogue raise funds to repair a leaking roof. This is about restoring not just the fabric of a building but the fabric of a neighbourhood, of civil society.
Bradford is the most youthful city in the country: 37.4% are under 25, compared with a national average of 32.1%. But what are the prospects for these young people? At Bradford Church of England Academy, where I was a month ago, young people are doing my Young Leaders programme, unlocking their potential within their local communities. It is fantastic to see the energy going into a church club for older people. All kinds of projects are being done by young people. A lunch club has been created.
These young people have so much to offer, but in parts of the city, Church Urban Fund research indicates that child poverty rates are as high as 42%. What will happen to those children, for example, if the Government abolish, as they plan to do, the ring-fenced funding given to local councils for crisis payments and community care grants? The link between poor health, poor housing and poverty is of particular concern, with just over a quarter of the district’s children classed as living in poverty. There are 287 families across the district currently affected by the housing benefit cap. The average reduction to housing benefit for those families is £49.29, and needs to be made up from other benefits to avoid rent arrears. What sense does that make?
On the matter of benefits, why is it that in Bradford, 1,130 local disabled people have fallen foul of jobcentre sanctions and been left without any income for periods of between four and 13 weeks. That is astonishing to me.
Bradford’s population is forecast to grow at 8.5% over the next 10 years, and around 2,200 additional new homes will need to be built each year to meet the projected growth in households—a major challenge. It is estimated that up to 25% of all new homes will need to be affordable homes. With the right investment, this will mean much-needed new jobs.
Bradford is proudly resistant to those who would seek to sow community discord, but high levels of unemployment are clearly a danger. Long-term projections indicate the importance of immediate action and investment. Just to maintain Bradford’s current employment rate of 65.6%, an additional 10,000 people will need to find employment by 2021. This is possible—with work on the Westfield centre beginning, there are new opportunities—but the city will still need 31,000 new jobs to bring it up to the national average. Jobs in Bradford tend to be low paid. It will be important for those in work to be paid a living wage.
I am very much looking forward to hearing the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, give her maiden speech. Her experience as director of the north-west rail development company qualifies her well to encourage investment in a northern city. We in the Church of England are creating a new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. This will create neighbourhoods that are wonderful.
Noble Lords, Government, business, civil society, churches and all religious communities: I put it to you that this is a key moment for Bradford. I hope that today’s debate will lead to more understanding and more investment in this vibrant city. Long live Bradford!
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Shutt, and the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York in contributing to this debate initiated by my noble friend Lady Eaton. She and I were leaders of metropolitan authorities—as some have mentioned, I was the leader in Trafford, in Greater Manchester, for many years. I never thought for a moment that I would be following my noble friend into your Lordships’ House, but it is a pleasure to do so. I also mention in their absence my sponsors, my noble friends Lord Howard of Lympne and Lady Morris of Bolton, whose support and assistance over the years have been so much appreciated. I was so pleased that they agreed to be my sponsors when I was introduced to your Lordships’ House.
My journey has taken me, as an Irish immigrant, first to the north-east of England and then to the north-west, where I have lived my whole life—apart from a short diversion to Huddersfield, which, given that we are discussing Bradford, is not too far away. The north-west is the second largest economy outside the south-east, but in productivity terms it lags behind by some £30 billion. My point today is not to decry the success of London and the south-east, but to explore how northern metropolitan authorities and areas can contribute to the prosperity of this country now that economic growth is well under way.
We have led the way in the north-west in innovation, enterprise and industry. I mention at this point the great Alan Turing, whom we must thank, first for our freedom, through the work that he did with the German-encrypted Enigma machine, which helped to give us our successes in the Second World War; and secondly, for developing the Manchester Mark 1 computer, which of course has led the way in the advances in technology that we enjoy today. I would also like to mention graphene, which is a recent discovery by two Nobel Prize-winning scientists in Manchester. It was very pleasing that the Chancellor saw fit to fund, in part, the National Graphene Institute in Manchester. Given the noble Lord who is following me, I might also add our achievements in sport. We believe very strongly that the success of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2001 in no small part paved the way for our successes in our bid to host the Olympic Games here in London.
Historically, we have a vibrant manufacturing sector. If any of your Lordships are partial to the humble baked bean, they will have been canned in Wigan—the beans rather than your Lordships. If any of your Lordships are partial to Guinness, it will have been canned in Runcorn. If any of your Lordships ever travel on the London Underground, the escalator chains will have been manufactured in Wythenshawe and the drive shafts in Rochdale. There is a great deal of industry and manufacturing coming out of the north-west.
The Government have addressed some of the structural issues already mentioned, in terms of people accessing jobs and growth, and particularly in terms of connectivity and infrastructure. We have also seen the start of some great supply-side reforms—the reductions in corporation tax, the lending for business, the reductions in fuel duty and also taking a number of people out of income tax altogether—I think a quarter of a million in the north-west. These have greatly helped in starting that journey back to growth. There are also challenges. My noble friend Lord Freud mentioned yesterday that the north is actually outpacing other areas in terms of employment growth, but we are still very reliant on the public sector in the north-west and in other parts of northern metropolitan areas for economic growth.
I notice that my time has already run out. It just remains for me to say that the north-west is a very competitive area in which to locate business, and it is a great place to live. Finally, I thank Members from all sides of your Lordships’ House who have been so friendly and welcoming to me, and of course all the staff who have been very patient with me, as I frequently get lost in your Lordships’ House. Thank you.
My Lords, it is always a privilege and a pleasure to follow a maiden speech, particularly one of such quality and eloquence as that which we have just heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford. She comes to the House with a distinguished record in local government as a former leader of Trafford Council, having represented Altrincham on that authority from 2002 to 2011.
The noble Baroness is, as we have just heard, a powerful advocate for the north-west, and supports major infrastructure projects in the region, including the Atlantic Gateway—a long-term plan for development between Manchester and Liverpool along the Manchester ship canal—the north-west rail hub and, I am delighted to say, High Speed 2. Her previous career includes two years as vice-chairman of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, membership of the Greater Manchester Police Authority, and chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the north-west.
Before getting involved in local government, the noble Baroness worked as a nutritionist for a charity that provided specialist support and therapy to sufferers of multiple sclerosis. In the 2010 election, Susan Williams came within just 92 votes of winning the Bolton West parliamentary constituency. I am sure that I speak for all your Lordships when I say that the House of Commons’ loss was undoubtedly our gain, and we look forward to many more speeches from her in future.
Crossing the Pennines, I warmly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, on securing this debate on Bradford and for attracting such an impressive array of speakers. Few of us will be able to do justice to this great city in four minutes. Had I more time, I too would have spoken about the need for trans-Pennine railway electrification, and I probably would have said a word about the splendid Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, the original home in “The Railway Children”.
My contribution today is as a trustee of the Science Museum, which is the parent of Bradford’s National Media Museum, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt. The museum attracts almost 500,000 visitors a year and is the second most-visited attraction in Yorkshire. It contains some of the finest and most compelling visual material to be found anywhere in the world, such as the oldest known surviving negative, John Logie Baird’s original television apparatus and the camera that made the earliest moving pictures in Britain. The museum is the reason why Bradford received City of Film status from UNESCO. According to Bradford Council, it has an economic impact of £24 million a year, and it does particularly well in attracting 42,000 visits in education groups, including 20% from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and 44% from the lower socioeconomic groups.
Despite all this, in the summer of 2013 there was real doubt about the future of the museum. This started in April when, following cuts in grant in aid to all the national museums, the Science Museum Group was asked by the DCMS to model further cuts of 5%, 10% and 15% for the 2015-16 spending review. The director of the Science Museum made it clear that if the cuts were at either of the two higher levels, one of the museums in the north of England—Bradford, the National Railway Museum in York or the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry—would have to close. Most media comment centred on Bradford as the most likely candidate.
The reaction was immense. There was a public rally at the museum on 8 June and a public meeting at Bradford’s city hall on 11 June, chaired by the leader of the council. At the media museum’s 30th birthday celebrations over the following weekend, 1,000 visitors expressed their support, many with birthday cards. There was an Adjournment debate in the Commons and a Select Committee inquiry. On 26 June came the welcome news that the cut would not be 10% or 15% but 5%. It was therefore possible for the director to say that the museum would stay open.
While it is still going to be very tough, the Science Museum Group has renewed its commitment to Bradford. Provided that more support is forthcoming from bodies such as the city council, the University of Bradford, Bradford College, local schools and the BBC, whose historic collection was gifted to the museum in 2013, the museum should have a brighter future. It is also looking for a commercial film operator to help sustain the cultural programme, such as film festivals.
There is no doubt that the threat of closure was a real wake-up call, not just for the Government, who realised—perhaps a bit late in the day—how vital our national museums are to the life and well-being of the nation, but also to all the local interests in and around Bradford. I hope that they now realise that the future of the National Media Museum depends to a very considerable extent on them and on what they can do to support it.
My Lords, the Committee may be wondering why a woman from deepest Suffolk is speaking in a debate on Bradford. The answer lies in the genes: my father was a Bradford man and, thanks to the wonderful work of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, I know that generations of my ancestors, going back over 300 years, came from the area around Bradford, Leeds, Halifax and Huddersfield. These towns were part of the backbone of the industrial revolution, and in the case of my ancestors it was the textile industry that occupied them. In my ancestry are wool combers, sorters, cloth dressers, weavers, dyers, spinners, carders, warp dressers and weft men, and this continued right up to the death of my uncle in the early 1970s. During the 1940s and 1950s, these jobs were done increasingly by immigrants from the Indian subcontinent who were prepared to tolerate the low wages and poor conditions in the industry. By the 1970s and 1980, instead of the people coming to the jobs, the jobs went to the people—most of the textile and garment industry moved to the Far East, where labour was cheap.
I mention that because there is growing evidence that we should be rethinking all this. The textile industry can now be almost totally automated; fewer people are required, and those who are required are highly skilled. Every process, from design to manufacture and packaging, can be computerised and automated. Digital connections mean that small start-up businesses can almost instantly be connected to markets, research and suppliers from right across the globe.
The competitive advantage of cheap labour does not necessarily exist anymore. If noble Lords are not convinced, I can point to Apple and General Electric, both of which are bringing their manufacturing capability back to the United States. Reshoring, the opposite of offshoring, is a growing reality, and I can point noble Lords to the recent work by our colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Giddens. In the textile industry, Jaeger has restarted UK production, having ceased in 2000. The fact is that wages in Asia have risen while they have stagnated in Europe and the US. The head of a company manufacturing household textiles in both the UK and China recently commented that it is his UK plant that is more productive, due to the highly skilled workforce and the fluctuations in currencies.
Transport costs are going up all the time, which makes reshoring increasingly viable. Producing closer to the markets also has the advantage of shortening order times, giving a flexibility that many big retailers particularly welcome. Customers and businesses are becoming more aware of sustainability arguments and the ethical considerations, which were so graphically highlighted by the terrible loss of life in the garment factory in Bangladesh. The UK is currently still uncompetitive in cheap mass-produced markets but has a big advantage in quality.
In Seoul, John Lewis is now one of the most popular stores in the city. Its quilts and bedding are being made in Lancashire, and the managing director points to the design, quality and overall value that are leading to their success. The “Made in Britain” label is definitely seen as a plus, and retailers such as Marks & Spencer are committed to promoting it. The textile trade body is promoting UK manufacture under its Let’s Make it Here initiative, which links companies at all stages of the supply chain.
Vince Cable has talked about the growth of reshoring. The textile industry is ripe for this, and I would appreciate assurances from the Minister that its importance is being taken seriously. The Government have a role in promotional activities, helping start-ups and ensuring that capital, and the right skills, are available. Bradford still has a small but thriving textile sector, but it could do so much more. How magnificent it would be if Bradford, with all its industrial heritage, could once again become a thriving centre for textile manufacturing.
My Lords, I am delighted to be able to contribute to this afternoon’s debate. I share with the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, a Bradford upbringing, and I am grateful for her informative and balanced outline of the challenges facing the district today. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, on a fascinating and uplifting maiden speech.
As others have said, in recent decades Bradford has been badly hit by economic deprivation and social unrest. However, I feel strongly that there is cause for optimism today when we talk about Bradford. That optimism is there when I talk to people in the town and, perhaps surprisingly, it is often there in the local press. Among the car crashes and court cases covered by the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, space is also given to regeneration and community projects, to construction starting this month on the long-delayed Westfield shopping centre and to the encouraging early outcomes from the Get Bradford Working initiative. Even the national media sometimes take note. I was struck by a story that I read before Christmas, which has also been mentioned by the noble Baroness and the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, about the town’s last remaining synagogue, a grade II listed building that a year ago was leaking badly and in danger of being sold off, which would have forced the small congregation to travel the 10 miles to Leeds to worship. Yet, one year on, the Bradford reform synagogue’s future is looking more secure because of the intervention of Bradford’s Muslim community. Some of its most influential members helped the synagogue’s chairman to mount a successful lottery bid, and that money will now help renovate the building. Thanks to the relationships formed through their fundraising effort, the communities now do other things together. Once renovated, the synagogue plans to open for school visits throughout the week.
I, too, believe passionately that education has a key role to play in helping to address the challenges of integration faced by the district’s different communities. I want to focus my remaining time on the tremendous educational opportunities in Bradford, not least the role the university is playing in raising aspirations locally. The university’s three-year partnership with University Academy Keighley has seen a significant increase in the percentage of students gaining five A* to C grade qualifications, including in English and maths.
Last year, Bradford University opened a £1.6 million centre to raise attainment in the key science, technology, engineering and maths subjects for schoolchildren, not only in the district but beyond—one of the few STEM-specific facilities in the country. In December it launched a Centre of Excellence for Environmental Technologies in collaboration with Bradford Council and Buttershaw Business & Enterprise College, as part of the Get Bradford Working programme. It is supported by many local businesses, including Yorkshire Water. They all want to build a highly skilled young workforce which will attract more companies and investment into the area.
The university is one of the largest employers in the area. It plays a lead role in the Yorkshire Innovation Fund, in which local universities help small to medium-sized enterprises to develop new and improved products and services through R&D and innovation. One example is the university’s groundbreaking Centre for Pharmaceutical Engineering Science, which is helping to improve the competitiveness of South Yorkshire SMEs through the use of green processing technologies.
I also want to mention Bradford College, the fourth-largest college in the country and the largest provider of HE outside the university sector in England, which plays its part in transforming lives, communities and the economy. The college’s new multimillion pound campus, being built in the heart of Bradford, is due to be completed this autumn and will add to the regeneration of the city.
I take heart from the assiduous work of the university in raising aspirations and attainment and aiding the prosperity of Bradford, and from the story of the synagogue and the mosque communities supporting each other. In 2014, Bradford is showing that it is a place where people of different faiths and backgrounds can come together, to learn, to work and to do business, for the benefit of all the people of the district.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, on securing this rather novel debate about the well-being of the City of Bradford Metropolitan District. We also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on a fine maiden speech.
From the briefings we have received and the contributions made today, we can be optimistic about the city’s well-being in the future. Under the strong leadership of Labour’s Councillor David Green, Bradford has a council that is working towards the vision of a place that is prosperous, creative, diverse and inclusive, and it is delivering this by working with partners and citizens. As we have heard today, there have been and remain major challenges to the city. The challenges are made more difficult by the draconian and disproportionate cut in funding it has endured.
Surely one of the tasks of government, whatever the overall level of the local government finance settlement, is that its distribution should be fair. Why, in the two years ending in March 2013, should funding have fallen by over twice as much in Bradford as the average fall for the 10 least-deprived authorities? The council has responded to this by operating in new ways, commissioning services locally from a range of providers, including local businesses and community and voluntary organisations. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on the Bradford Social Future Awards scheme is a helpful reminder that relatively small amounts of funding can make a real difference to engaging local people with entrepreneurial solutions to local social problems.
This debate highlights Bradford’s ambition for regeneration and the new Producer City strategy, building on its manufacturing strength. But the facts—Bradford having the fifth-highest concentration of manufacturing employment in the UK; its emphasis on advanced engineering and manufacturing; it being the location of major global companies—amply justify the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, seeking exploration with the Government of how this capacity might be enhanced. She also made the case for the city centre growth zone to be extended.
We have heard that economic growth would be improved, congestion reduced and carbon reduction facilitated if the Calder valley line were to be included in the provisional electrification plans being considered for the period 2019-24. It is asserted that the line currently connects 2.5 million residents, 75,000 businesses, 120 multinationals and three of the largest cities in the UK—Leeds, Manchester and Bradford. Given the age of some of the rolling stock on this line and the scale of the catchment area, why is it not being considered for electrification as part of this programme?
We know that the council and the community have had to face difficult issues, especially around safeguarding children, but it seems to be doing this by confronting the problems and seeking to learn from past failures. Transforming educational outcomes is a key imperative for the council to support the local economy and to ensure a future for the young population of the city. We have heard that not all engage with the educational opportunities available and the particular problems arising from the growing Slovakian Roma community to which the noble Baroness referred.
We should be proud as a country to be a safe haven for those who suffer persecution in their homeland. Living in Luton, I know the joys of diversity and the challenges of integration which it can bring: challenges for local services, school places and housing; challenges of poverty; and exploitation in employment. The call for help from government to work with Bradford to develop an integrated strategy deserves a positive response. We should also acknowledge the role of interfaith work in helping to tackle such challenges.
We should wish Bradford well and all those engaged in seeking to improve the well-being of its communities.
My Lords, I should declare from the start that I am from Beeston, Notts, and not from Beeston just outside Leeds, just in case anybody is listening to me and wondering why I do not know more about what is clearly a fantastic part of our country.
I join others in congratulating my noble friend Lady Eaton on securing this debate and on the clear and eloquent way in which she introduced it. She gave us a very full picture of Bradford. I was talking to somebody the other day about Bradford and asked them how they would describe it to me. They said that it was a beautiful place with beautiful people. I think that that came through from what my noble friend said, as did her pride in the city.
I welcome my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford and congratulate her on her excellent maiden speech. I look forward to hearing more from her—very soon, I hope—in the main Chamber, where more noble Lords will receive the benefit of her wide knowledge and great expertise on a range of matters.
We have heard today from several noble Lords who have expert views on the opportunities and challenges in Bradford, expert views grounded in their local knowledge and experience. For me, this exemplifies an important principle of this Government’s policy, which is that local areas should be able to decide for themselves what goes on in their communities and how they want their area to grow and develop. That is a far more effective way to help local areas thrive than for central government to dictate how they should go about things. We have given local areas the powers and the freedoms to take control of their future, from having greater control over planning decisions to retaining some business rates.
We in central government must create the right economic conditions for places to thrive. While we still have a way to go, we are on the right track, as the recent growth forecasts and this week’s inflation figures show. Beyond the national economy, we must also provide a range of opportunities that will work for different parts of the UK to address their specific needs and help them realise their full potential; for example, by rebalancing the economy away from dependence on the public sector and instead attracting private sector investment to start up businesses and create jobs. That is particularly important in the north, and it is relevant to today’s debate about Bradford.
I was pleased to hear my noble friend Lady Eaton talk about the strong signs of growth in Bradford. It is worth noting that growth in Bradford has outstripped regional and national averages since 2008. As has already been acknowledged, the first way in which we are helping in this area is through the regional growth fund. Projects in Bradford have secured almost £22 million, including about £17 million for the council-led city centre growth initiative.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick of Undercliffe, referred to the Westfield shopping centre. I know that it has been delayed and this has led to much frustration being felt in the city until now, but once it is off the ground it will be a very iconic new development in Bradford. My noble friend raised some concerns about potential delays. This is a very complex project, and I understand that officials in my department are working with Bradford council to address some of the issues in order to ensure a speedy resolution.
My noble friend also asked if I would meet with the Bradford Producer City board to discuss this and other matters. I would certainly encourage the board to work closely with the lead city region LEP on their strategic economic plan, and I gather from the comments I hear from my noble friend that that is happening. I would certainly be happy to meet them in addition, and we will take that forward and make sure that it progresses.
Beyond the regional growth fund, Bradford was also one of the first places to benefit from the city deals as part of the Leeds agreement. These 10-year deals mean that areas have much greater certainty and confidence to meet the longer-term challenges they face. In this region, the city deal will tackle some of the systemic issues which have held Bradford back in the past. This again demonstrates the importance of giving local people who understand those challenges the ability to deal with them. It was the local leaders who emphasised transport and skills and education as the main priorities for investment.
My noble friend Lord Shutt raised HS2, which clearly we believe will bring tremendous opportunities to the area. It is a massive investment in transport. The new combined authority to which other noble Lords have referred will be the best way to make the most of these opportunities, ensuring that all local communities are connected to the line. He raised the specific issue of the hammerhead terminal. I will raise this on his behalf with my noble friend Lady Kramer and come back to him with a specific answer, because I am not equipped to do so today.
My noble friend Lord Shutt also raised the issue of electrification on the Calder valley line, as did other noble Lords. It is worth pointing out that this Government have done more on electrification than previous Governments. We have funded Network Rail to the tune of about £130 million to improve speed and capacity on that particular line and on the Hope valley line, and the further details of the schemes are currently being worked out. My noble friend is right that the Calder valley line was not named among the eight specific lines for electrification, but the task force is free to consider the case for any route in the north. More details will be announced shortly, and I urge local leaders in Bradford to ensure that they are talking to the right people at Network Rail and the Department for Transport about this.
Beyond those transport matters, the city deal provided a £1 billion fund to improve public transport, outside of heavy rail and the highways network. Beyond that there is a further £1 billion for capital funds via the local enterprise partnership and the local growth deal. All of these are to ensure that Bradford gains from the advantages of HS2, and that in that part of that country—as, indeed, in other parts—there is the connectivity which is so important for people to access work and other opportunities.
I go back to the city deal and the decisions of local leaders as to their priorities. The other area was education and skills, which are of course vital not just to give every child the best chance in life to succeed but because without a skilled and trained workforce, Bradford will lag behind other cities. My noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market stressed that point when she talked about reshoring and the return of industry to the Bradford area, which is very welcome.
The cornerstone of the city deal is a commitment that every young person in the Leeds city region has access to a job, training, apprenticeship, volunteering or work experience. It is important for me to emphasise that in response to the comments of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York. The aim is to create 20,000 new opportunities, which will tackle the problem of young people not in education, employment or training. The Department for Education is also working closely with Bradford local authority, schools and the dioceses to improve school performance. There are now 25 academies open, with another nine in development, helping to drive improvement in some schools with the lowest performance. I was also pleased to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, said, about the work happening with the University of Bradford. Much is going on in that area. We must ensure that Bradford has a highly skilled workforce and that the young people in Bradford receive the right level of education, which is so important to their future.
I also want to pay tribute to the strength of local communities in Bradford. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, among other noble Lords, spoke powerfully about that. Cities are far more than just their economies, and Bradford is not just culturally and socially rich but has a proud tradition of diverse communities working together across a range of issues. We have had some powerful examples highlighted by my noble friend Lady Eaton, the most reverend Primate and others. That is incredibly heartening.
In the context of communities, my noble friend Lady Eaton raised the issue of integration of Roma immigrants in Bradford and suggested the need for a national Roma integration strategy. The Government believe that the issue is better served through our broader strategies to promote social inclusion and improve education, but I would certainly be happy to discuss the matter further with my noble friend.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, referred to the local government finance settlement. Our approach to local government finance means change in the way that central government works with local authorities, freeing them from dependence on central grants and requiring them to meet centrally imposed targets, but of course the Government still protect those councils which are more dependent on government grant. It is worth noting that Bradford still has a spending power of £2,350 per head, which is greater than the national average, reflecting some of the greater demands on services in that area.
I pay tribute to the local authority in Bradford for the effort that it is making to improve the delivery of its services and to save money, although I certainly urge it to go further, as I do with all local authorities. I point to one specific different approach to local government financing, which I think answers one of the points made by the most reverend Primate about the desperate need of some families. That is the troubled families programme. That is one way in which we are changing the way in which we finance and approach difficult and entrenched issues, and we are making a huge amount of progress in that field.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, said that there is lots to take heart from today, and I agree. There is also lots to be optimistic about. My noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market gave us one example when she talked about reshoring. This is a city that is proud of its identity. I was really pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, talk about the National Media Museum. As someone who has worked a lot in the media industry, I am ashamed to admit that I have never visited the museum, but I will, now that I know just how amazing it is. I only hope that the people who run the National Media Museum will help the people of Bradford to tell a greater and more powerful story about that wonderful city.