The new chairman of the Greater Brighton Region today sent out a rallying cry to nearly one million residents: By sticking together we can make a real difference to our communities.
Councillor Garry Wall assumed the chairmanship of the Greater Brighton Economic Board this week and in a first interview he revealed his ambition to expand the region which currently covers the local authority areas of Brighton, Lewes, Adur, Worthing, Crawley, and Mid Sussex. It also includes Gatwick Airport.
Cllr Wall, who is leader of Mid Sussex District Council, said: “I am very ambitious for Greater Brighton. We have had a very good five years, bringing in multi-million pound investments and now we need to go even further.
“I want us to continue attracting investment but I also want us now to do much more, to shout about our region, tell of our success but also continue to press for more investment so that we can continue to make a strong contribution to the health of the UK economy.”
Cllr Wall said he bring more partners to the Region by helping them understand how successful it has been. In the last five years Greater Brighton has attracted investment to major projects totalling more than £160m.
Among the major projects funded or partly funded through Greater Brighton have been the Adur Tidal Walls, University of Brighton Advanced Engineering Centre, Newhaven Enterprise Zone, the Northern Arc in Burgess Hill, Forge Wood in Crawley, North Street Quarter in Lewes and Union Place in Worthing.
Cllr Wall said: “I’m keen for us to look to expand because the more partners we have, the bigger the area and population, the greater the diversity of businesses, the more power we have to attract investment and to make our voice heard.
“On our own as local authorities or businesses of course we can do a lot but together we can achieve even more.
“Today we are connected as a region, we travel to work, rest and play from one part of it to the other, we are bound together in wealth creation, creativity and energy. If one part of the Region is successful it benefits us all.”
The Greater Brighton Region came into being in 2014 as part of the government’s devolution policies to give more control and power to the regions of England and which saw some opt to introduce a directly-elected Mayor to run the show.
In Greater Brighton the aim of protecting and growing the Region’s economy through creative, innovative initiatives which coordinate economic development activities and investment throughout the area.
Six local authorities are involved, the districts of Mid Sussex, Adur, and Lewes, the boroughs of Worthing and Crawley and the city council of Brighton & Hove, with the chairman of the Greater Brighton Economic Board being taken by leaders of each on an annual basis.
In addition education providers the Universities of Sussex and Brighton and the Greater Brighton Metropolitan College are on the board as are several business partnerships and other bodies including Gatwick Airport and the South Downs National Park Authority.
Greater Brighton is home to more than 900,000 people and there are 340,000 jobs in 40,000 businesses creating a diverse, vibrant, economic community. The Centre for Cities has rated Greater Brighton in the top 5 for jobs growth in the last 10 years and 37,000 more jobs are expected to be created by 2030.
However Cllr Wall warns there are no grounds for complacency and points to organisations like the Northern Powerhouse and the East Midlands Engine, similar organisations to Greater Brighton, lobbying for resources to be spent further north have stolen a march.
He said: “In a sense we have some catching up to do. Although we are a strong contributor to the wellbeing of the UK economy we must continue to convince that we need help to keep making that contribution.
“We also need to show government that we have our problems too despite common misconceptions. We have pockets of deprivation and we have skill shortages for which we need help. Our work is far from over.”