Challenger bank chooses Bradford for new opening

By Dave Baldwin

Metro Bank is bringing its “revolution in British banking” to Bradford. The challenger bank said its new outpost will combine face-to-face banking with state-of-the-art technology, providing residents and businesses with a customer-focused and convenient banking experience. It is one of two Metro openings planned for Yorkshire, the other being in Sheffield. Metro refers to them as stores, rather than branches, emphasising perhaps a point of difference on the retail approach.

The lender launched in 2010 and has taken its time to expand beyond London. Earlier this year, it received a helping hand from Banking Competition Remedies, the fund set up by RBS to increase competition in business banking as a condition of its taxpayer bailout during the financial crisis. Metro said the £120m award would bring much-needed competition to the underserved SME hotspots in the North while investing in digital capabilities and creating new jobs.

Its investment research into Bradford will have revealed a thriving and diverse economy worth £10.1bn with fertile conditions for growth: the best business rate relief, value for money in commercial space rent, job vacancies and road infrastructure (all helpfully identified by Barclays in naming us the best city in Britain to start a business). The district is home to 18,000 VAT and PAYE-registered companies. More than 4,000 new start-ups formed last year. Each and every one of these businesses needs modern and responsive financial services to support its ambitions, which their current lenders may or may not be providing.

SME banking needs are changing fast, which is why the Government and regulators are keen to encourage more competition in the financial services sector. The big five banks – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Santander – have traditionally dominated the UK market but challengers like Metro, Starling and Tide are providing an alternative for the new generation of business owners who expect innovation in their financial services. 

Metro’s Bradford store will be at the former Five Guys restaurant – one online wag commented you needed finance to buy a burger there – next to the Broadway shopping centre. Fast food will make way for fast banking with customers able to visit without appointment and open personal or business accounts on the spot and leave with debt card in hand along with internet and mobile banking set up.

Craig Donaldson, chief executive officer at Metro Bank, said: “Bringing the banking revolution to Yorkshire is a real milestone for Metro Bank. We’re thrilled to be arriving in these two cities next year.”

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford council, added: “It’s great to see Metro Bank choose Bradford as one of its first locations in the region. The city is home to so many successful SMEs and Metro Bank have obviously recognised this with their new investment.”

The Bradford and Sheffield stores will create around 50 new jobs. Bradford has a strong financial and professional services sector with nearly 9,500 people employed in banking, insurance, fund management, accountancy, management consultancy and legal services, according to lobby group TheCityUK. That’s more than six per cent of the total workforce. We are home to major financial institutions including Provident Financial, Yorkshire Building Society and UK Asset Resolution and specialists such as Ecology Building Society, Al Rayan Bank and Atrium Financial. PwC, the global professional services giant, opened an assurance centre in the city earlier this year to tap into our talent pool.

Bradford is steeped in financial services with expertise dating back to its prominent role in the Industrial Revolution. Early lenders such as Bradford Old Bank, founded by woolstaplers in 1803, and Bradford Commercial Joint Stock Banking Co, founded with capital of £1.5m in 1833, helped lay the foundations for the banking industry as we recognise it today and became constituents of Barclays and RBS.

Metro will join a strong and growing sector of financial and professional services companies invested in Bradford. Competition is healthy for any market place and our SMEs should benefit from the introduction of new products and services tailored around their changing needs. Metro’s eye-catching blue, red and white branding will also be a welcome addition to the city centre. Just don’t call it a branch.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Bradford’s home to some of most inspiring architecture in Britain

By Dave Baldwin

Back in the days when money was no object, our Victorian forebears built a city that befitted its status as the world capital of the wool trade. Walk around Bradford today and everywhere you look there are abundant reminders of this proud and illustrious past. We have a wealth of heritage buildings. Architectural commentators call it “good bone structure”. This is a handsome legacy and it offers enormous potential for growth in the future.

Bradford has one of the most inspiring built environments in Britain. We have seized this opportunity and our distinctive offer is one of four central themes in our 2018-2030 economic growth strategy. We are using these unique assets to create compelling investment propositions and an environment for growth. To this end, Bradford Council wants to increase the supply of land for business use and is calling on agents, landowners and developers to put forward sites that might be suitable for future employment.

There are deals to be done. The council has identified the need to create 60 hectares of land suitable for business use to help fulfil our growth strategy. This would include offices, research and development facilities and general industrial use such as manufacturing and production. Our businesses need room to grow. Research shows there is particularly strong demand for good quality employment space in four hotspots across the district: east and north Keighley, Wharfedale and north, north east and south east Bradford.

The time is coming for Bradford and our diverse, modern and sustainable economy. Two decades into the 21st century, we have a young and growing labour force. SMEs are the lifeblood of our economy, the third largest in Yorkshire. We are also the location for a number of big players with well-known brands operating on a global scale. Bradford is home to many successful creative, cultural and tourism-based enterprises. The call for employment sites will strengthen this promising position.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s executive member for regeneration, planning and transport, said: “This is a vital piece of work for us, so that we can identify land for future economic growth and ensure we can deliver the 1,600 jobs per annum the district needs. We’re keen to work with landowners and developers to map out potential sites and be clear about where development could take place in future.”

Marianne McCallum, chair of Bradford Chamber of Commerce Property Forum, said: “It’s clear that, in order for Bradford’s business community to fulfil its potential and play a full part in our economic growth, that more good quality sites are needed. We urge agents, landowners and any others who can play a part, to come forward with potential land sites that can be considered for future development. Bradford is on an upward trajectory and landowners can support that by making sites available now.”

Too right Bradford is on its way up. Transactions will follow as investors wake up to this fact. Interested parties must submit sites for consideration by September 24 when consultation closes on the next stage of the council’s core strategy. All sites put forward will be assessed for suitability, availability and deliverability and the usual planning rules and permissions will apply.

Bradford is no longer the world capital of the wool trade. But the investments in infrastructure made by our forebears stand us in good stead today. We have an abundance of buildings of architectural and historical interest. Many date back to the time of the Industrial Revolution when Bradford was a global pioneer. Regenerated, revitalised and reinvigorated for the coming generations of business and civic entrepreneurs, they will set the stage for our future success.

* Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Hosting UK City of Culture 2025 would be brilliant for Bradford

By Dave Baldwin

Put simply, hosting the UK City of Culture in 2025 would be brilliant for Bradford. Our district is undergoing substantial regeneration. Business and civic leaders are working together for the greater good and making strong progress with our ambitious economic growth strategy. People are seeing Bradford in a different way.

Take Hull as an example. As UK City of Culture in 2017, the East Yorkshire port city staged more than 2,800 events, cultural activities, installations and exhibitions, winning a total audience of 5.3m people. Preliminary evaluation shows the East Yorkshire city generated £300m in tourism revenues and won nearly £220m in inward investment.

The feel-good factor can never be underestimated. Three in four Hull residents said they felt proud to live in the city. One in four local businesses added new staff and one in five extended opening hours. Hull attracted more than 20,000 items of national media coverage. The University of Hull, which carried out the evaluation, said the experience “left audiences with an overwhelmingly positive impression of the city”.

Bradford is twice the size of Hull (which has generously voiced its support for our bid). Imagine the impact that hosting the UK City of Culture could have on our district. We certainly have a strong case to make. We are home to the National Science and Media Museum. Our cultural heritage includes the Brontës, JB Priestley and David Hockney and we recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of being named the first UNESCO City of Film.

Bradford is brimming with new talent. Home-grown arts organisations including England’s largest learning disability theatre company, Mind the Gap, Bradford Literature Festival, female-led theatre collective Common Wealth, intercultural arts hub Kala Sangam, Bradford Community Broadcasting and an emerging new generation of cultural voices successfully engaging new audiences. This fact was not lost on Channel 4 which cited the city’s young, diverse and digitally-savvy communities as one of the reasons for moving its national HQ to West Yorkshire.

We have the infrastructure to stage an ambitious programme of international events. The city is home to some exceptional large-scale venues, notably the Grade II-listed St George’s Hall which recently underwent a £9.5m restoration project, and Bradford Live, the former 1930s Odeon which will reopen in 2020-21 as a world-class entertainment facility.

Our arts institutions are winning headlines for innovative and influential work. Theatre in the Mill, which has just been named as one of two national pilots for an Arts Council talent programme, is regarded as one of the most exciting companies in the North of England. Throw in Bradford’s wealth of public spaces, parks and heritage buildings and we can offer a truly spectacular canvas for events in 2025.

Reaction to Bradford’s intention to bid has been very encouraging. Jake Berry, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, tweeted: “I’m thrilled to see that @Bradford2025 has thrown their hat into the ring for UK City of Culture. It’s a fantastic opportunity to shine a spotlight on the cultural heritage and bright future of #NorthernPowerhouse cities.”

Sabbiyah Pervez, the BBC journalist behind the We Are Bradford storytelling project, said: “Bradford is a vibrant, culturally diverse and young city with incredible potential. The talent here is inexhaustible so much so that you will find people creating opportunities for themselves in every corner despite their limited resources; it is for this reason Bradford was named best place in the UK to start a business.

“It’s a city of pioneers past and present, with a rich history of migration and social activism. This makes it a unique contender in this bid to become Capital of Culture.”

Amir Hussain, the founder of Yeme Architects, said: “The city’s rich architectural heritage profoundly reflects an illustrious past and sets the tone of aspiration. A ‘ring of culture’ surrounding the city has naturally evolved through a vibrant, young population that seeks to manifest its presence in the city.

“We believe the bid process and winning the title will vastly enhance this activity and will serve to create a more inclusive city as the inherent broad diversity can be better celebrated.”

Mary Dowson, director of BCB Radio and interim bid chair, said: “Our UK City of Culture bid presents a brilliant opportunity for us to showcase not only the incredible home-grown talent we have here in Bradford, but to create a legacy which improves opportunities for local people and promotes the city as a fantastic place to live, work and enjoy.

“Over the next few months we’ll be working hard to develop new partnerships and build a strong programme for the bid to include local, national and international events. We’re positive we can deliver a successful and spectacular year of culture in 2025, now we want the city to get behind us too.”

Final bids will be submitted in 2021 and the Government will anoint the winner later that year. It would be brilliant for Bradford.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Bradford’s starring role in Cricket World Cup success

By Dave Baldwin

A week or so after England’s miraculous Cricket World Cup victory, the Yorkshire-born spin bowler Adil Rashid was visiting his local mosque in Bradford. There he found cricket fans overjoyed at the success of their home-grown hero. After posing for selfies with young supporters at Masjid Umar, the 31-year-old told the BBC: “They’re seeing someone from this area who has made something for themselves and achieved something massive. There is hope there for them. He has done it and so can we. If I can be an inspiration to the youngsters – or anyone for that matter – then I have done my job.”

This is an important message. For a young person of South Asian heritage in Bradford, where social mobility can be a challenge, having a role model like Adil Rashid can be a powerful motivating force.

There is another important message to be found in England’s cricketing success: the contribution made by diversity. Mr Rashid said: “For us as a team, being so diverse – with myself, Moeen Ali, Eoin Morgan, Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes – it shows how we can come together and unite and play under the England banner. Unity can achieve so many things. We want to give the message that regardless of race, religion or colour, we have to respect everyone and be 100 per cent committed to what you want to do.”

Solid sentiments from Mr Rashid, who made history in 2006 when he became the first Yorkshireman of Pakistani heritage to represent Yorkshire County Cricket Club. He went on to launch the Adil Rashid Cricket Academy with his brother Amar in Bradford in 2012 to prepare and nurture future cricket stars, particularly those from disadvantaged communities.

Inspiration is one thing, infrastructure is another. It can be difficult to realise your ambitions if you don’t have access to good facilities, especially in urban areas. In this respect, the ongoing redevelopment of Bradford Park Avenue cricket ground is encouraging news. Established in 1880, the site was considered one of the great spiritual homes of cricket, hosting 306 first-class matches up until 1996 and regularly attracting crowds of 25,000 fans. It officially reopened in 2017 following a multi-million pound investment with eight new artificial practice wickets and a community pavilion.

A spokesman for YCCC told us: “We are optimistic that with new funding in 2020, we will be able to look at the next phases of the regeneration of Park Avenue. This will include a new pavilion and urban cricket centre. We continue to work in conjunction with the England and Wales Cricket Board, Government and Bradford Council to continue the regeneration of the famous old cricket ground. The ground continues to be used more and more by girls and boys, men and women from within the local community. We are very optimistic about its long-term future.”

Cricket is a great leveller. Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford, senior independent director at the ECB and a long-standing champion of our district, is trying to increase the number of British Asians getting into the game through the South Asian action plan he launched a year ago. The public health pioneer grew up playing cricket in the streets and on the pitches of Bradford in 1960s and credits the game for giving him the confidence, connections and opportunities to meet people outside his community and develop lifelong friendships.

The ECB’s plan aims to engage more effectively with South Asian communities to draw more players, fans and volunteers into every level of the game. It covers recreational cricket, talent development and retention, attendance, administration and culture and facilities and is targeting 10 core cities, including Bradford. There is a sound business case for the plan: research shows South Asian communities contribute 18 per cent of the cricketing economy.

We know sport has huge economic benefits. According to Sport England, it generates in excess of £20bn in GVA every year and supports more than 400,000 full-time jobs. There are countless wider benefits for society, not least the happiness and wellbeing of those taking part, improved health and education, reduced crime, community development and increased volunteering. Above all, watching sporting success together creates a feel-good factor like no other: it’s called national pride. I’m proud that Bradford – which can claim another World Cup winner in Jonny Bairstow – is playing its part with these stories of inspiration, diversity and regeneration.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Bradford getting its vibe back with multi-million pound investment

By Dave Baldwin

Known variously as Tequila, Revolution and more recently Vibe, the former nightclub in Bradford city centre might seem an unlikely location for a new place of worship. But that is exactly what the Diocese of Leeds has in mind for the empty building in a prime location overlooking City Park.

Built in stone and glass in 2002 to match the classical style of neighbouring Alhambra theatre, the building in Glydegate Square is the subject of plans to create a £4.6m “focus point of faith” called Fountains Church, due to its proximity to the famous water feature.

The Bishop of Bradford, Toby Howarth, told the Church Times it would have “a strong Bradford identity: young, entrepreneurial, ethnically and culturally diverse, and confident about holding out a clear religious offer and call in the public space”. Reverend Linda Maslen, head of the project, said she wants the new church to be “a blessing to the people of Bradford, bringing life, hope, and love”. Whatever your faith, that’s a sentiment you can only welcome. We’re a broad church in Bradford.

The diocese chose the prominent site after an extensive search of properties in the city centre and is in negotiations with the leaseholder Bradford Council about securing planning permission for the change of use. “We hope and pray it will give spiritual refreshment right in the city centre”, said the Archdeacon of Bradford, Andy Jolley.

Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “It’s great to see the Anglican Church making such a significant investment in the city. Like us, they have faith in the city and what we are creating here. This new investment further enriches the spaces for faith in the city centre and we gladly welcome it.”

Significantly, it adds another piece of the jigsaw puzzle in the ongoing regeneration of central Bradford with the development of the Bradford Live world-class venue, the 1,000-home City Village scheme and the multi-storey food market at Darley Street.

The growing body of work is attracting attention. The London and Dubai-based property investment company Aspen Woolf has published a new guide examining Bradford which describes the district as “a hidden gem” for property investment. “A vibrant, youthful city with a long-standing legacy as a stronghold against trying times and big changes, Bradford is coming into its own,” it reports.

“Boasting the ideal blend between urban city living and the beautiful, historical countryside of West Yorkshire, Bradford is home to an enterprising economy, affordable living spaces and some exciting developments.”

The guide lists Bradford’s affordable mortgage costs and strategic location as key attractions for YURs (young urban residents), the demographic driving the new economy, and notes the high yields available for buy-to-let investors in the BD1 postcode, which are the 10th highest in the UK according to Totallymoney.co.uk. It also notes the Bradford Economic Partnership’s long-term focus on our young and enterprising population, our distinctive offer, our growth potential and our globally connected district.

Aspen Woolf concludes: “Bradford is one of the country’s most exciting cultural hubs, with a youthful, enterprising and dynamic population. Underpinned by an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong business ethic, Bradford will only continue on its journey as one of the most exciting property investment hotspots in the country.”

Of course, investments can go down as well as up in value but it’s clear to us that our district is extremely well placed to make the most of the opportunities that are being thrown up by the enduring uncertainty of our times. Investors are taking note. Momentum is gathering. The vibe is back.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Alexa, we want Yorkshire SMEs to be leading digital health revolution

By Dave Baldwin

Alexa, is Amazon the future of healthcare in the home? The new collaboration between the NHS and the US tech giant might suggest so. The pairing of Amazon’s market-leading voice assistant with expert advice from the NHS is a very good expression of how technology can be applied to healthcare. In the link-up, Alexa’s algorithms will use medically verified information from the NHS to answer medical questions and provide guidance. “It means people will know when they should see their GP or go to A&E. And when, and how, they can treat common illnesses with the help of a pharmacist,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who is keen for the health service to build similar partnerships with Google, Apple and any other tech developers.

The digital revolution has swept through industries like media, retail and financial services, empowering consumers and shaking up incumbents. But there is a big difference between downloading a song, buying an ebook or using a banking app and the digitised delivery of care. Real health and wellbeing is at stake. How do we know that new technology works? How do we know it is safe? Where are the checks and balances? These questions are vital for patients, clinicians and commissioners. They are also important for developers, whether big or small, which need compelling answers to expand their digital health services in an emerging industry.

High quality research is hugely important. With this in mind, we welcome the new £135m investment from the National Institute for Health Research for 15 new Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs), which will join up universities, innovators and local authorities to solve some of the biggest issues facing health and social care over the next five years. I’m delighted to say that our district will host the Yorkshire and Humber ARC. The Bradford Institute for Health Research, part of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, will receive £9m in funding to prioritise research into a number of health issues including older people with frailty, healthy childhood, urgent care and mental ill health.

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “As the population grows and demand on the NHS increases, it is paramount we develop the next generation of technologies and improve the way we work to ensure the NHS continues to offer world-leading care. The UK has a proud history of cutting edge health research and by supporting the great minds in health and social care, this funding has the potential to unlock solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing healthcare and revolutionise the way patients access treatments in the future.”

Lord Willis, who co-authored a recent report into the future viability of the NHS and social care, is chairing the Yorkshire and Humber ARC strategy board. He said:  “We are a Silicon Dale of health research in Yorkshire with some of the leading centres of excellence across Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds and York. The new ARC will ensure our NHS and social services are able to improve effectiveness and impact to benefit our patients and their families.”

Professor John Wright, director of the ARC, told The Yorkshire Post the new centre would help “translate research into patient impact” and play a transformational role in finding out which technologies are useful for the NHS and can benefit the public health. He said the centre will harness public sector data and use the insights gleaned to put the emphasis on intervention rather than treatment. “Prevention is better than the cure,” added Prof Wright.

The Government has correctly identified that embracing innovation in healthcare can help create high-skilled and well-paid jobs and support the growth of the UK health tech sector. This is why Mr Hancock wants to open up the health service to innovators from business, academia or overseas and make it easier to get good ideas into work in the NHS. The opportunity for Yorkshire and Humber is significant with world-class strengths in health research. Our region has some glaring health inequalities that must be tackled. Our universities and our innovators are producing regular breakthroughs in life sciences. We need to make sure our SMEs get a helping hand into the health economy so the spoils don’t all go to Amazon and co.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Chamber welcomes PR chief Suzanne Watson as new president

Nearly 20 years ago, Judith Donovan CBE made history when she became the first female President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce. The cigar-smoking businesswoman became known as one of Yorkshire’s first entrepreneurs after starting her own marketing agency in 1982. She sold JDA for an undisclosed sum to her managers in 2000 and embarked on a successful post-business career in public service.

Almost two decades on, the chamber has appointed its second female president in Suzanne Watson, the founder and managing director of Ilkley-based Approach PR, who succeeds Nick Garthwaite, the managing director of manufacturer Christeyns UK, at the helm of the business organisation, which was founded in 1851.

“Better late than never!” said Judith. “It might have taken me 149 years but it shouldn’t have taken another 19 to get the second female. But with female leaders in virtually every major civic role in Bradford, the city is now setting the pace. The chamber is still one of the best in the country so I know Suzanne will love every minute, as I did, and I wish her all the very best.”

Suzanne founded Approach PR in 2000 after starting her career as a newspaper reporter in North Wales and West Yorkshire. Working for a local paper provides a privileged glimpse into the rich tapestry of life and Suzanne used her experience in journalism to establish a successful public relations and social media agency with clients in the manufacturing, retail, charity, food and drink, hospitality and tourism sectors.

She said: “This is a time of immense change and progression for our city and district and it feels the right time for a small business owner to be taking on the position of President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce. 

“Our district has around 15,500 businesses and of those, 99 per cent are micro to medium sized. Everyday, they, like me, live and breathe the challenges caused by productivity barriers such as transport, connectivity, the skills gap and funding. My own experience puts me in a strong place to be a voice and a representative of our business community. 

“After working alongside Nick, who has done a wonderful job for the last two years, I feel confident that with the support of a great chamber team and the business community behind me, we can do great things for Bradford’s profile, development and economic growth.”

As Suzanne points out, the vast majority of companies are micro to medium in size. Yet their views often struggle to register among the political and business elite in Westminster and the City of London. Let’s not overlook that small businesses employ 16.3m people in the UK and generate a combined £2 trillion in annual turnover. In this respect, Suzanne will provide a valuable perspective as a small business owner.

High-growth companies attract a lot of media interest, especially those that achieve dizzying valuations. As they chase the next billion-dollar business, investors seem to forget that unicorns only exist in the land of make-believe. SMEs provide a reassuring counterbalance to all the hype, steadily generating profits, jobs and tax revenues that together maintain a level of prosperity in communities across the UK.

As Suzanne notes, these businesses rely on good road and rail links, fast and reliable broadband, confident and capable school leavers and access to finance to help meet demand for their goods and services. On the face of it, these aren’t big asks but with the national conversation preoccupied with Brexit, the bread-and-butter investment decisions on transport, connectivity, skills and funding are being delayed. This is where we need the chamber’s voice to be heard loudest and clearest. I’m sure Suzanne will do a sterling job and we look forward to working with her.

On behalf of the Bradford Economic Partnership, I would like to place on record our thanks for the significant contribution made by Nick Garthwaite over the last two years, especially with the creation of Bradford Manufacturing Week, which has encouraged countless young people to consider careers in industry. With role models like Nick, Judith and Suzanne, they won’t be short of inspiration to follow their dreams in business.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

TV producer praises unique talent and skill in Bradford

For those unfamiliar with The Inbetweeners, the Channel 4 show chronicled the painfully funny and puerile escapades of four adolescent males as they struggled with the coming of age. It ran for three series, produced two hit films and earned its place in telly history as pure gold.

The trials and tribulations of Jay, Will, Simon and Neil have helped to inspire a new British-Asian sitcom set in Bradford and currently in pre-production for Channel 4. The comedy producer Stu Richards of Rockerdale Studios confirmed he is casting for five South Asians from Bradford who are “funny and fresh” for the roles of 18-year-old college students. He is also looking for local people to join the production crew, including make-up artists and prop designers, and is hopeful that Bradford College can supply some of the talent.

Mr Richards told the local paper: “It’s not literally a remake of The Inbetweeners, they’re all slightly older for a start. But it is about the camaraderie between four lifelong friends who are useless in their different ways. So there’ll be a cool handsome one, a hapless one, a conspiratorial one etc. They’re all young lads who are trying to deal with the world and the struggles of becoming a man.”

It’s a timeless theme and I cannot think of anywhere better to bring it up to date for modern Britain. “For me, Bradford is unique,” added Mr Richards. “There’s so much talent and skill in the city and this is a real opportunity to tap into those resources.” I’m told Channel 4 will announce more details soon, including the identity of the Bradfordian writer.

With the Bradford Literature Festival in full swing, the cultural renaissance is gathering pace as the district welcomes distinguished guests from all over the world. These include Tasneem Chopra, the Australia-based international diversity consultant. She told the BBC how she only knew about Bradford through its literature festival. Ms Chopra said: “When I see events like this, I see people who look like a microcosm of the world. I see little children who can look up and see ‘that could be me’. You can only be what you can see.”

That’s so true. We need to make sure that young people from our district are exposed to successful role models during their formative yearsl. This is why initiatives like Bradford Manufacturing Weeks and the Bradford Education Covenant are so important in raising aspirations and showing children there really should be no limit to their ambitions, whatever their background.

This was underlined by Anita Rani, the TV presenter born in Bradford to Indian parents, who returned to her home city to host Channel 4’s diversity festival which took place earlier in June. Speaking to an audience of industry executives, she challenged the dominance of “posh white men” working in TV: “I feel I have to justify why I should present things more than anyone else because I’m an Asian woman, and on top of that I’m blimmin’ northern.” We need more people like Anita blazing trails for others to follow.

Opportunities are growing in the cultural industries. Arts Council England has just announced National Lottery funding worth £1.5m for a group of Bradford organisations to create a Producing Hub in the district. This will help develop the local performing arts sector and talent and increase the capacity to produce work.

Evie Manning, director of arts organisation Common Wealth, said: “Bradford is a city that over the years, despite limited formal arts infrastructure, has created so much brilliant work in a very grassroots way. The Producing Hub will encourage artists at all stages in their careers to experiment, express themselves and help build a narrative of Bradford that is proud of what makes us unique – as a city that has always been radical and is a home to people with lots of experience and lots of stories to tell.”

To keep up to date with some of those stories this summer, look out for the Sparkling Bradford campaign. This is backed by Visit Bradford, Broadway shopping centre, Bradford Council, Bradford BID and Bradford Economic Partnership. All the organisations with a stake in the future of our district have joined forces to deliver a life-enhancing package of things to do, many of which are free of charge. Pure gold.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Power up the Powerhouse with new Bradford city centre station

Five years ago this summer George Osborne captured the imagination of many in the business community when he launched the Northern Powerhouse. The idea of unleashing the unfulfilled potential of the North was irresistible. Here was a Chancellor with the economic vision and the political will to bring together northern cities, towns and rural communities to supercharge economic growth through the ramping up of transport networks and devolution of decision-making powers. He even got the Chinese president on board.

Sacked by Prime Minister Theresa May in 2016, Mr Osborne swapped politics for a job in the newsroom and now edits the London Evening Standard as well as earning a few bob on the side as an £650,000-a-year advisor to BlackRock, the US fund manager. To be fair, he did set up the Northern Powerhouse Partnership with Lord Jim O’Neill, his former Treasury minister, which bangs the drum for more investment in our part of the world.

Amid fears the Northern Powerhouse is running out of steam, 30 newspapers of the North including The Yorkshire Post have united in an effort to apply some pressure to those vying to succeed Mrs May in Number 10, urging them to spell out what they intend to do and how they will work with others to narrow the North-South divide. It is a fine campaign and puts down a marker for the new incumbent that the case for regeneration is urgent.

A new report from the Institute of Public Policy Research North will certainly fuel concerns about rising inequalities in England. It found that between 2009-10 and 2017-18 the North had a £3.6bn cut in public spending, while the South East and the South West together saw a £4.7bn rise in real terms. London also saw a cut in spending, but by far less, at £256m.

IPPR North also found transport spending rose by more than twice as much per person in London, at £330 per person, as in the North, at £149 per person, in real terms. Most concerning of all, 200,000 more northern children are now living in a poor household since the launch of the Northern Powerhouse in 2014, meaning there is a total of 800,000 children living in poverty in the North.

Commenting on the report, Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Bradford Council, said: “While positive steps have been taken to address the economic challenges facing the North, this analysis underlines the need to dramatically increase the pace and scale of investment if we are to truly rebalance the economy and raise living standards for all our communities.

“As a starting point, the Government must recommit to delivering HS2 in full and fund Northern Powerhouse Rail, with a line going through Bradford city centre, as fundamental building blocks of the 21st century transport system the North needs to unlock its full economic potential.”

Judith Cummins, Labour MP for Bradford South, raised the issue in Parliament recently and afterwards said: “The difference in spending between London and the South East and the North of England cannot go on. We are still boarding decades old stopper trains to get from Bradford to Leeds, while London gets significantly more investment in transport.

“I want the North to have its fair share of funding across all Government departments, but transport would be a good start. Northern Powerhouse Rail needs to be a project that won’t be scrapped by the next prime minister, and it absolutely needs a city centre station in Bradford, the fifth biggest city in the country.”

Challenges aside, let’s not forget all the progress our district has made over the last five years: with the ongoing regeneration of the city centre, new business creation, jobs growth, high productivity, skills development, manufacturing exports and a cultural renaissance, Bradford is getting its mojo back. We’re doing our bit in business; now Government, whatever its political persuasion, needs to rebuild trust and confidence that it is for the North. That would be a very welcome boost for social solidarity.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Celebrating Bradford’s heroines who fight for our rights

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 is being named after her.

Local teacher Lillian was Secretary of the Women’s Social and Political Union and clearly a very determined woman, so determined in fact that she attempted to enter the House of Commons on February 14 1907 to demand voting rights for women. Predictably, the Establishment was outraged. She was arrested, tried and sent to prison for two weeks.

Without the bravery of Lillian and others like her who fight for human rights, Britain would be a very backward place. It is great that our district is taking a stand and celebrating the contributions of these women through a new campaign called Pioneering Bradford Lasses, starting with Lillian Armitage Close at a new development on the corner of Green Lane and Lumb Lane.

Cllr Sarah Ferriby, portfolio holder for Better Health, Better Lives, told The Yorkshire Post: “I work in City Hall most days and while there are rightly many pictures of the old industrialists and aldermen who helped shape our district, these are by and large, male figures. This campaign offers the chance to redress this balance and promote more of our district’s pioneering lasses.

“I look forward to seeing more of the women from our past in my visits to City Hall, and indeed throughout the district and hope that Lillian Armitage will be the first of many women to be publicly honoured in in the district. By raising the profile of our Pioneering Lasses in Bradford we hope to inspire young women across the district to go on and make their own history.”

There are many exceptional role models to be found in the Bradford civic community. Take the following as a few shining examples: Bradford Chamber chief executive Sandy Needham, Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe, council chief executive Kersten England, Bradford Literature Festival director Syima Aslam, manufacturing MD and LEP board member Joanna Robinson, charity chief Adeeba Malik, University of Bradford vice chancellor elect Shirley Congdon and health care commissioner Helen Hirst. I could go on.

We have many outstanding female entrepreneurs, such as Gemma Andrews, the 31-year-old co-founder and managing director of Superfood Market, who transformed a popular food blog into a successful whole foods supply business with annual sales reportedly nearing £10m.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “I really love my job and the business we have built over the best part of a decade. I’m really proud of all the work we do, but I’m especially proud of the hardworking and dedicated female team leaders, managers and department heads at Superfood Market.

“I hope that my leadership of the company serves as a positive example of modern times in business, and inspires other women to reach for positions at the highest level. I hope though my hard work and dedication I pave the way for fellow Yorkshire lasses like myself to pursue and achieve their dreams.”

Suzanne Watson, the managing director of Ilkley-based Approach PR and the Vice President of Bradford Chamber, is another example of an outstanding female entrepreneur in our district. She said: “The political, cultural and business landscape is changing at an incredible rate and now more than ever do we need inspiring female leaders to step forward and share their experiences, their skills and their vision with the next generation of women to encourage more entrepreneurship, more courage and more self belief to achieve our potential and secure the careers we deserve and truly make the difference we are capable of.

“Recognising female achievement in all areas is long overdue and as Bradford moves to acknowledge and promote the important role of women in the district’s history with its Pioneering Bradford Lasses campaign, I am looking forward to a future where Bradford’s example of female leadership is the norm, rather than the exception.”

Suzanne becomes Chamber President later this year, the second woman to hold the post after the advertising guru Judith Donovan CBE, another outstanding female entrepreneur from Bradford. Over the years, our district has produced some truly great women who have risen from diverse backgrounds to become figures of historic significance. Recognising their often courageous contributions to business and civic life helps pave the way for others to follow.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club