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Today’s Autumn statement from the Chancellor was a rallying point for Councils around the country to shout about their City Deal bids. Leader of Stirling Council Joanna Boyd was on Twitter demanding a good deal for Stirling, Council leaders in Aberdeenshire were doing the same.
Radio silence from Dundee.
As the Chancellor’s statement was announced it had the weakest words for Dundee. Not because the UK government hasn’t been willing to look at the Tay City bid. Basically because the whole process hasn’t started yet.
It reminded me of the Courier Jobs Summit held a year ago where I asked Lord Dunlop, Conservative under Secretary of State for Scotland, in the company of business leaders from around the City, what we should be doing to push the City Deal forward. He simply opened his hands and said, your Council needs to present me with a bid.
That hasn’t started yet. Why not?
Well the Tay City Deal team took to Twitter defensively today saying they want to get it right first time. Herein lies the problem. No council gets it right first time. It’s a deal. The clue is in the name. It involves negotiations, back and forward, clever manoeuvring to maximise the economic value of the deal for our citizens.
That’s what Gordon Matheson Leader of Glasgow City Council did. That’s what Joanna Boyd, Leader of Stirling Council is doing. That’s what Jenny Laing, Leader of Aberdeen Council is doing. Political leaders negotiating deals for their cities. Like it or not, that’s what politicians do, we strike deals. And we are best placed to do it because we are directly answerable to voters.
But that is precisely what is not happening in Dundee. Who is leading and driving our bid? Ken Guild, Leader of Dundee City Council? No. He has been decidedly quiet. Either the leaders of Perth and Kinross or Angus. Nope. Our two MPs? No. Our constituency MSPs? No.
Council officials who tweeted saying they wanted to get it right first time are driving our bid. They are treating it like applying for a grant, not striking a deal. What is the consequence of this? A huge potential loss of investment for our city.
My understanding is that they will present a completed bid to the Scottish and UK governments in the Spring and hope it is signed off. Yes, we’ll get something. Will it be nearly as much as we should get? No way, and it will limit the opportunities for manoeuvre. Are they as responsive to what the population of Dundee want out of a City Deal – a strong plan for industrial jobs. I don’t think so.
So far, my guess is that the bid is a Scottish Enterprise type plan for a few high paid jobs at the jobs and trickle down possibilities for the rest. I say guess, because the SNP are in control of this and I can only shout and try to influence from the outside. The SNP runs the Council. If they cannot put up a political leader who will put in the time and effort to drive this forward immediately, then they are doing this city a great disservice.
Stewart Hosie could do it. He knows the Treasury and knows the key players at the top of the Scottish Government. Whatever you decide SNP, please put a leader in place soon. Other cities are passing us by in the fast lane and our economy cannot wait any longer.