A new partnership has been forged to drive forward plans for Stoke-on-Trent.
The forum, which met today for the first time, saw nearly 150 representatives come together from over 100 organisations including government, regional agencies as well as a number of public and private sector partners from across Stoke-on-Trent.
Called the City Forum, the partnership aims to deliver the ambitions set out in the Powering Up Stoke-on-Trent Prospectus that was launched earlier this year and which focuses on securing partnership and investment in the city.
It also pledges to create a powerful and influential partnership of private, public, voluntary and community sector organisations working across the city with regional partners, to address and deliver Stoke-on-Trent’s ambitions – outlined in the Prospectus – as one shared plan for the city.
MP Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for Business and Industry and Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment opened the event which was held virtually. He welcomed the initiative and said: “I would like to pay tribute to all the hard work that you are doing towards opening up the city. I look at a proud city like Stoke-on-Trent and know that it has the potential to be a high-wage, high-productivity hub in the centre of England.
“I’m delighted that we have made the commitment as a government to work with economies that have felt ignored and let down and give them greater investment and greater autonomy to decide how those investments are used.
“I know that there is still plenty of potential to be unleashed in Stoke-on-Trent.”
Stoke-on-Trent City council leader cllr Abi Brown chaired the event while Mark Gregory, Chief Economist for EY, Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital and Centric and The Hubb Foundation co-founder and trustee and Port Vale Football Club Chairman Carol Shanahan were key note speakers.
Discussion focused on four key areas including the City Forum, the economy, creating the Stoke-on-Trent of tomorrow as well as social recovery.
Attendees had the opportunity to join a themed workshop covering transport, economic development, skills and education, and health and productivity.
Forum facilitators included the city’s three MPs Jack Brereton, Jo Gideon and Jonathan Gullis as well as Integrated Care System director Simon Whitehouse, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP chair Alun Rogers, and City Learning Trust CEO, Carl Ward.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council led on the introduction of the new forum but the strength of the partnership lies in the diversity and shared ownership of members.
Cllr Brown, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “Stoke-on-Trent is the litmus test for the government’s levelling up agenda. Earlier this year we launched our Powering up Stoke-on-Trent prospectus but we know there is so much more we can do together.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in additional challenges to those already facing our city and our focus needs to be on what we as partners need to do collectively to help us to recover and thrive.
“That’s why we’ve introduced the City Forum. It brings together communities, businesses, the public sector, the private sector and anyone with an interest, a passion and a love for our fantastic city. We’re going to do great things – we’ve only just started to Power up Stoke-on-Trent and by harnessing the expertise, influence, skills and experiences of key partners and stakeholders through the City Forum, we can make this city even more effective, efficient, resilient and sustainable.
“There are so many brilliant, kind and dedicated people here. I strongly believe this rich collaboration between sectors and partners will facilitate and drive the development of an attractive, growing, inclusive and vibrant city which we can all be proud of.”
Mark Gregory, chief economist at EY, who was a key note speaker at the event said: “It’s exciting to be involved with the City Forum. I love this city, having grown up here and while I live elsewhere now, I want to be able to give something back.
“Following the pandemic, there is a huge opportunity around recovery within Stoke-on-Trent and the city forum is a key part of this. I’m proud to be part of the collaboration for Stoke-on-Trent and looking forward to what comes next.”
In a letter about the forum, Rishi Sunak, MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer said: “I welcome this initiative: the Stoke-on-Trent City Partnership Forum is an excellent example of local collaboration to drive positive change in places. Strong local partnerships being local authorities, businesses and other local stakeholders are crucial to delivering the government’s plans to spread opportunity and level up the United Kingdom.”
Carol Shanahan, co-founder and trustee of The Hubb Foundation and owner of Port Vale Football Club said: “The Stoke-on-Trent City Forum is a massive opportunity to build on the collective power of the people here. It’s about six towns becoming one city and where two football clubs can work side-by-side.
“Whatever your faith, creed, politics or football club, this is about working together to make this city richer – we are all Stoke-on-Trent – together.”
Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital and Centric said: “I’m really pleased to be involved in the Stoke-on-Trent City Forum. I love this city – it’s a really exciting place that often isn’t recognised as such by those who live here.
“Stoke-on-Trent offers something really different with a community spirit and civic pride that is second to none. I’m proud to be part of the next chapter, embracing collaboration for the city and I’m hugely looking forward to what comes next.”
Following today’s meeting, a report is to be produced and shared from the forum which will set out key actions which will be shared with key partnership boards that are already established in the city including the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Local Enterprise Partnership, Stoke Creates, the Health and Wellbeing Board, the Children, Young People and Families Strategic Partnership Board, and a number of others.
· Powering Up Stoke-on-Trent casts the city as the litmus test for the Government’s ‘levelling up’ ambitions. This is the Government’s policy to address inequality and ‘level up’ left-behind parts of the UK through a programme of infrastructure development, investing in education, skills and scientific research and development. Read more at: www.stoke.gov.uk/poweringup
· Before COVID-19, Stoke-on-Trent was undergoing the most significant transformation in its economic fortunes it has experienced for over 30 years.
· Read more about the Stoke-on-Trent City Forum at www.stoke.gov.uk/cityforum · See ‘While you were away’ video shared at the event here · Watch a video from cllr Brown talking about the City Forum here
· Follow the conversation for the Stoke-on-Trent City Forum at #Stokeisontheup
· Sign up for the City Forum e-newsletter here at www.stoke.gov.uk/stayconnected
For all media enquiries please contact Emma Rodgers in the Communications Department at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 627052.