‘Investment zone’ should be created in Glasgow says councillors
One of the UK Government’s planned ‘investment zones’ should be created in Glasgow, councillors have urged.
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The city missed out on funding from the second round of the government’s Levelling Up fund, after “last minute political interference”, while its bid for a ‘green freeport’ was also rejected.
Council leader Susan Aitken said she met with Levelling Up fund minister Dehenna Davison last week.
“I think it’s fair to say she recognises the UK Government has not done the right thing by Glasgow and has some serious making up to do,” she added.
“I made a pitch for direct investment into the city’s economic priorities. I can’t go into too much detail at this early stage, but the meeting was positive.”
The council leader said the “investment we are seeking” would be on top of what would come with an investment zone.
There are plans for 12 low-tax investment zones across the UK, with four in Scotland. They are expected to be created around new business clusters, with a focus on sectors such as digital and tech, life sciences and green industries.
Each zone would receive £80m over five years, including tax incentives like business rates relief.
Cllr Aitken added: “It is Glasgow’s turn and there is nowhere with more potential for transformational impact, but it must align with our evidence-based and democratically determined economic, social and climate priorities.”
She was speaking on a motion from Labour group leader George Redmond, who said: “Nobody is wild on investment zones, but they are realistically the only game in town which can give local authorities more powers and levers to attract more prosperity.
“They can be a force for good if we shape them to be that way, but it is important we are very clear as a council what the parameters are going to be.”
The motion, amended by the SNP and Greens, was passed with support of all councillors besides the two Conservatives.
Cllr Redmond added the Levelling Up process meant “most places have lost out in a scrap for funds that pits communities against each other rather than working together”.
“Millions have been wasted in bids, including £100,000 here in this city,” he added. “In Glasgow, we saw the devastating impact of the Tories changing the goalposts at the last minute to appease their own constituencies in the Blue Wall.”
He criticised the recent Conservative budget, and said the UK Government had failed to address the “structural and regional inequalities that beset this country”, but added the Scottish Government is not “blameless”.
“During the (SNP) leadership election, all that was promised for local government was a reset. We don’t need a reset, it’s more money that this city needs,” he said.
Cllr Aitken’s amendment said engagement with both the UK and Scottish Governments over investment zones is at an “advanced stage” and that locations “should be pre-selected on the basis of need and potential impact rather than chosen through artificial competition”.
“There is no question that the chancellor’s budget failed to deliver what households, communities and public services desperately need during this Tory created cost of living crisis,” the council leader added.
She said there was “disgraceful and unjustifiable last minute political interference by UK ministers in the Levelling Up process”.
“UK officials were in dialogue with our council officers right up to the week of the announcement, and at no stage was there ever any suggestion that areas successful in round one would not be eligible for round two funding.”
Cllr Aitken said: “I don’t agree that an investment zone is the only game in town. I think it is a game, and it is one we do have to play, but we are working very closely with Scottish Government colleagues on the transfer of powers and, indeed, more investment into the Glasgow City Region.”
She expects “strong input” from the Scottish Government to ensure any investment zone in Scotland isn’t a “vehicle” for “right-wing” economics about “free-market tax havens”.