Councillor Banwait, Leader of Derby City Council delivered this speech at the social Housing Midlands Roadshow in Birmingham on Wednesday 11th of October.
The session focused on bringing together combined authorities from across the region and providing an overview of how the East and West Midlands are addressing housing need and how increasing housing supply feeds into their plans for social and economic prosperity. It also explored funding, planning and tenure mix.
Strong economies are built on strong cities, and both Derby and Nottingham have a solid base.
We’re both at the forefront of the original industrial revolution and share an industrial heritage – a history of silk and lace, manufacturing and ideas.
We’ve also both dealt well with recession and the de-industrialisation of the 1980s and now enjoy growth and rising employment.
Yet we’re distinct cities with different personalities – and we’ve competed in the past – not least on the football pitch.
So, when Cllr Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council and I began to talk about closer working between Derby and Nottingham, we quickly realised we were going to have to break through a tradition that had pitched our cities as rivals.
I’ve had people express surprise – even shock to begin with about this idea – but, after a few questions, this has usually been followed by a nod of acceptance and a comment such as – “you know, that actually makes sense”.
This is because we’re not just tied through our proud industrial heritage, modern manufacturing base, transport links or even one great football manager, Brian Clough – but through our citizens.
Ladies and gentleman, I believe this is the age of the Metro Citizen!
As a Derby lad born and bred, I’m proud to be a citizen of Derby. Just as Nottingham residents are proud of their city.
Over 40,000 people regularly commute between Derby and Nottingham and we’re closer in distance than the Olympic and Wembley Stadium.
Many of the families I talk to in Derby have children living or studying Nottingham, and the opposite is equally true.
As Civic Leaders, we firmly believe we’ve more to gain from cooperation than competition if we want to unlock the economic potential of our cities to develop and keep our local talent.
That shared industrial heritage gives our Derby-Nottingham Metropolitan area a strong enterprise culture and actually many of our growing business sectors complement each other.
We’re the only two adjacent cities in Britain that have almost identical levels of gross value added per capita.
Derby is home to world class advanced manufacturing which accounts for 30% of its GVA, making it the strongest manufacturing city in the UK.
Nottingham has regional city strengths in finance, business services and public administration, as well as growing specialisms in biotech and data processing, as well as the digital and creative sectors.
We’ve three major universities and our attractive central location – close to major road, rail and air routes – make an ideal home for major businesses such as Rolls-Royce, Boots, Bombardier, Experian, Toyota, Capital One and Paul Smith.
Together these important sectors give us a great export base which will be critical post-Brexit.
To engage emerging markets we need a united, clear message with our business community and with one voice.
This way, Derby and Nottingham will be able to ‘punch above it’s weight’ when it comes to establishing a national presence and international reputation.
This will help us make the most of opportunities such as HS2, the Midlands Engine and foreign trade and investment in countries like China and India.
Initially the Metro Strategy set out a series of shared actions under the four themes of: Metro Enterprise, Metro Talent, Connected Metro and Metro Living – to focus on business support, inward investment, skills, transport and leisure.
It was deliberately outward facing, but after consulting the public we added ‘Efficient Metro’ to give us a focus on efficiency across both our organisations.
Through joint bids, partnership working, shared services, and so on – we aim to become more resilient, to help protect local services.
But it’s not just about working efficiently or saving money – it’s about learning from each other and improving the services we offer to our citizens, so that the best each place has to offer becomes the standard for both cities – and we’re already seeing the benefit of this.
We now acknowledge that the current strategy may not go far enough in that it does not cover the provision of affordable housing.
Rising demand and increasing pressures mean that we need to be innovative and ambitious if we’re to meet the needs of our more vulnerable people.
Housing is of critical importance as it enhances the quality of life of adults and the life-chances of children.
It not only provides shelter, but promotes stability and a sense of identity.
These elements all contribute to stable thriving communities.
Both cities have similar arrangements for the delivery of housing management and maintenance through Arms Length Management Organisations who have worked well together over many years.
The provision of new homes remains an issue for Derby and Nottingham as we both have tight boundaries and few land assets.
Nevertheless, I’ve pledged that in Derby we will provide 500 new affordable homes over the next three years.
This will be delivered through joint working between the City Council, our Housing Association partners and Derby Homes, our ALMO.
The pledge is a continuation of the work we’ve been doing over the last few years, in which time we’ve delivered 170 affordable homes through a PFI partnership with Riverside Housing Association and have worked with MHT to deliver a further 50 homes on a prominent stalled City Centre site.
Our ALMO, Derby Homes, now owns over 100 properties, through a combination of acquisition and in-house development.
We recognise the difficult environment that Housing Associations are operating in.
To this end we’re pro-active in trying to access a range of external funding sources, such as those through the HCA and Department of Health, or new Government initiatives such as the recent Accelerated Construction and Housing Infrastructure Funds, as well making some of our own RTB receipts available.
Empty homes are clearly a wasted resource as well as all too often a blight on their surroundings, but can equally be a source of new affordable housing.
The Council has previously entered into a PFI contract with a local Housing Association to bring some 150 empty homes back into use as affordable housing.
More recently, where the Council directly acquires Empty Homes either within targeted areas, or through Compulsory Purchase proceedings, it will consider in the first instance whether these are suitable for incorporation into our own stock.
We’re using our ALMO to lead on in-house delivery which means we can be competitive on price and deliver high quality homes which are energy efficient and safe as we install sprinkler systems as standard.
We also ensure that we engage with many small local building companies who so often do not get the opportunity to work with local authorities.
Through our in-house model we provide additionality – our aim is to build on the sites that no-one else is interested in, for example disused garage sites and corner plots.
We’ve also transformed some former council buildings into new homes, a recent example being a former children’s home.
We’re working closely with our Estates Division to ensure that our asset management strategy seeks to work alongside our housing strategy.
Building new homes is dependent on land availability and it is clear that we’ll not meet housing need through this alone.
We’ve analysed the need for larger homes in the city and now have a programme over the next few years to extend existing homes to provide four, five and six bedroomed homes to better meet demand.
We’re also seeking to acquire properties on the open market in some of the most deprived areas of the city.
We’ll do this by working again with our ALMO, raising standards in housing conditions and long term responsible housing management to support and build thriving communities.
We’re a pro-active Local Authority and we’re already making good progress. We’ve been recycling all RTB receipts into new Council homes over the past three years.
Ladies and gentleman, we’ve established our Metro Strategy because we believe that by working more closely we can improve life for all our Metropolitan citizens and together we can have more impact on creating jobs, improving housing, responding to new technologies and securing investment.
Our two ALMOs will continue to work closely, seeking new opportunities for collaboration.
Modern, forward thinking cities will give more people more opportunities to reach their own personal goals and ambitions – to learn and to earn, to enjoy their leisure time and to raise their families.