By Dave Baldwin
Looking back, it’s been a brilliant year for Bradford. To prove the point, this week’s column highlights some of the success stories that emerged from our diverse district during 2019. Taken together, they demonstrate our social, economic and cultural renaissance is gathering pace.
In January, new figures from the Centre for Entrepreneurs foundation showed that 4,127 businesses were born in Bradford in 2018, the equivalent of 15 new start-ups every working day. Who knows what wonders are being dreamed up on our doorsteps?
We have the entrepreneurs; we just need to back them with investment in infrastructure. In February, Transport for the North published its strategy for the next three decades. It singled out the impact that Northern Powerhouse Rail would have on Bradford, home to half a million people and the fifth largest economy in the North, currently worth £10.5bn. It says NPR is “central to unlocking opportunity and transformational growth in Bradford”. Too right.
March marked the first anniversary of the launch of our economic growth plan. We are making strong progress in attracting new investors, starting up and scaling up businesses, building new partnerships and bringing more people into the workforce. We have seen a private sector jobs boom of 6,500 new roles; we have broken through the 20,000 barrier in the number of BME women in employment, almost double the amount since 2010; and we have seen an inflation-busting seven per cent increase in average weekly workplace earnings.
Aside, I loved the headline in The Times, “Who needs London, Paris or Monte Carlo, when you’ve got Bradford?” Okay, it was only a Giles Coren restaurant review but we’ll take the glowing national coverage as an example of the positive momentum we’re gaining as a district.
PwC, the global accountancy giant, unveiled its new national assurance centre in Bradford in May. Speaking at the launch, Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South, said: “This is a really exciting time in Bradford and the opening of this office means new jobs, new investment and a boost to Bradford’s profile right across the city and the country. I know that PwC’s decision is a recognition of the significant commercial opportunity that Bradford offers.”
Bradford Literature Festival returned in June with a stellar line-up featuring 500 writers and 400 events across 10 days. That Habib Ali al-Jifri, an internationally-renowned Islamic scholar, and Luke Goss, one half of 80s pop band Bros and now LA-based actor, were among the hottest tickets summed up the sheer excellence of our very own world-class festival.
We all know it takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when the odds are stacked against you. Lillian Armitage had plenty and more than a century after she was jailed for her part in the suffragette movement, a Bradford street was named after her in July. It’s great that our district is celebrating the contributions of women like Lillian through a new campaign called Pioneering Bradford Lasses.
England went cricket mad in the summer and homegrown heroes Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid became national heroes for their part in the miraculous Cricket World Cup victory. In August, I wrote about Adil’s visit to his local mosque in Bradford to meet overjoyed cricket supporters. He said: “They’re seeing someone from this area who has made something for themselves and achieved something massive. If I can be an inspiration to the youngsters – or anyone for that matter – then I have done my job.”
In September, we launched Bradford’s bid to host the UK City of Culture in 2025. Our district is undergoing substantial regeneration. Business and civic leaders are working together for the greater good. Bradford is brimming with new talent. We have the infrastructure to stage an ambitious programme of international events. People are seeing us in a different way. Being host city would be brilliant for Bradford.
Strong cities need strong institutions and when a leading example is singled out for its excellence, it strengthens the standing of the city overall. Step forward University of Bradford, named by The Sunday Times in October as the UK’s University of the Year for Social Inclusion 2020. It’s a perfect illustration of the transformational work taking place across our district.
Bradford Manufacturing Weeks was a soaraway success. Delivered by Bradford Chamber of Commerce, this year’s initiative created an estimated 5,000 work experiences with 65 manufacturers involved, double the number of 2018’s inaugural programme. As well as helping boost apprenticeship numbers, the scheme gives young people a glimpse of the inspiring, innovative and rewarding enterprises creating wealth and prosperity across our district.
In November, Bradford was crowned Britain’s Most Improved City in an influential annual report on economic wellbeing following a record reduction in unemployment and significant growth in skills. The nationwide study, Good Growth for Cities 2019 by think tank Demos, measured the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities against a range of 10 priorities including jobs, health, income, skills, work-life balance, housing affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups.
As I write, Bradford Council has announced Muse as its development partner for One City Park, a new state-of-the-art office building at the city centre’s award-winning City Park and the next step in the ongoing growth and regeneration of the entire district. All in all, I am delighted but not surprised at Bradford’s successes over the last year. It shows what can happen when you get everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction. See you in 2020.