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Let the City of Culture win transform Bradford

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

The moment it was announced that Bradford had won the City of Culture 2025 title is a moment I will never forget. The crowds gathered in City Park erupted in cheers and applause at the sheer joy and immense pride of winning the title. I have said it many times in the past three weeks but it deserves to be said again: Congratulations Bradford!

And while we are sure to enjoy all sorts of exciting cultural events across Bradford District during our year with the crown, that is just the tip of the iceberg. The City of Culture title is not just twelve months for Bradford to shine in the national limelight. It is a transformative opportunity for the city to unlock its potential and make sure Bradford’s light keeps burning brightly for years to come.

Previous title winners have seen tens of millions of pounds of long-term investment – and there is no reason why Bradford can’t do better. Bradford is the youngest, most entrepreneurial city in the country and study after study has shown it is the city with most to gain from levelling up and investment. Our City of Culture win is an unmissable opportunity to leverage investment, funding and ideas into the city.

It is about raising Bradford’s profile and making the case that we are open for business. It is a chance to showcase Bradford businesses to the world and to show that if you’re a company, then Bradford is a thriving place to come and do businesses too.

But to make the most of this springboard opportunity, families and businesses need support with the day-to-day struggle of making ends meet right now. I know times continue to be hard today but, what is worse, is that the country is on track to face an even harsher energy and cost of living crisis this winter.

In January, Labour proposed a one-off windfall tax on North Sea oil and other gas producers who are raking in obscene profits while ordinary people struggle, as a way to fund help with soaring energy costs. It took five months for the Government to finally accept that this was the right thing to do.

From January to May, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak left families, older people and those already pushed to breaking point worried, panicking and stuck because the Government failed to act.

I have long been calling on the Government to take action. In September 2021, I raised my concerns regarding our dwindling natural gas reserves directly with the Business Secretary and challenged the Government’s decision to stop investing in gas storage. I was met with meaningless rhetoric about future energy diversification and no plan – right before an energy crisis caused by a surge in wholesale gas prices. Then in May this year, we heard how the UK had a huge surplus of gas - but that we had nowhere to store it, while announcements were made that as many as six million households could face power cuts because of gas shortages.

And it’s not just people here that are being hit by the cost of energy; it is affecting local businesses too. Some are facing astronomical energy bills as the energy price cap does not apply to businesses. I visited one energy-intensive manufacturer recently who told me their energy bills have skyrocketed from £7 million to £35 million a year. When I asked the Business and Energy Minister what plans the Government had to support businesses like this, the Minister simply dismissed this as an ‘extreme case’ – yet I am hearing that this is the story up and down the country. The government needs to listen to businesses and step in to help them.

This is important. Bradford’s manufacturing industry is part of the city’s heritage. Over 24,000 people in the city work in manufacturing, making it the fourth biggest city for manufacturing in the country. Energy intensive industries across the UK like steel, food production, basic chemicals and building materials are essential to our everyday lives. Hardworking workers plough in hour after hour to keep these industries going. How can we expect to be able to showcase the best of Bradford when rising energy costs means businesses and residents alike are fighting to keep their heads above the water?

To make the most of its City of Culture win, Bradford needs its residents and businesses to be thriving. We need the national Government to get the basics right on this: Act now to properly support businesses, not six months down the line when it reaches another crisis point.

Bradford is ready to build a City of Culture legacy that will last for decades to come, and I call for the Government to get on board with us too.


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