Thursday, 21 June 2012

Get Bradford Working

The Council have announced a £7.7m scheme, 'Get Bradford Working' which according to the Council will "provide approximately 390 new jobs, 400 new apprenticeships, 300 work experience placements, 600 qualifications, 525 sustained job outcomes and 5 new studio schools with 1500 school places linked to business" .  This aims to get more workers qualified and will create around 350 intermediate jobs, which is indeed a commendable effort.  There are over 19,000 jobseekers allowance claimaints, over 4,000 of these for a year or more in the district, so whilst it is a welcome initiative, it is not a solution to the 'worklessness' affecting the district.  Furthermore, the funding runs for two years, so it is a concern how the efforts into tackling unemployment and stimulating the economy will be sustained.

To create jobs, help improve the image of the city centre (and other centres in the district) there are other approaches that could be pursued.  Some of these would of course require a whole new pot of regeneration cash, others less so and others would require the co-operation of property owners and other organisations in the city.
Queensgate Market, Huddersfield
Over the border, Kirklees Council are offering free 'taster' market stalls and are running a competition for prospective stallholders to have a free stall for a longer period of time, at Queensgate market, above.  This would be easy for the council to implement, because the stalls are in their ownership. Another idea, perhaps requiring more cash, would be to a run a scheme with the owner of vacant retail property.  The shop owner gets a discounted fit out on their store, on condition they give discounted rent to a shopkeeper for a prolonged period of time.  This idea could indeed go beyond retail property and to many of the city's large mill buildings, such as those in Goitside below,  which could be used for creative purposes or even large buildings in the city centre such as Sunwin House and the Highpoint building.    A city centre property trust, as explored in the DIY regeneration post could be another way to get such property back into positive use.
Vincent Street, Bradford
Such schemes to bring property back into use would create opportunities for employment and enterprise.  It would help give Bradford a competitive edge to attract new business start ups and businesses relocating from other areas.  A number of non-retail uses in shops such as bars and caf├ęs would help make the city centre a more attractive place to live and perhaps revitalise the city centre residential market.  This would hopefully improve the image of the city centre and make it a better proposition for national multiple retailers.

This may sound a bit visionary, but that's the point.  Let's get Bradford working.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Youth Of The City

It is quite a pleasant evening out in Bradford and when that usually happens it sees City Park is full of many young people.  Lots of teenagers generally just sat around or maybe playing football, or larking about in the Mirror Pool.  There are people who are probably from most parts of the city, many different backgrounds, all wearing different clothes and a there is a whole spectrum of funky hair colours and different sub-cultures sat around.  It is a heartening sight.

The other day, George Galloway stated that by 2020 Bradford will be "the youngest city in Europe" and "what should be a blessing is going to be a time bomb".  Given the unemployment rate amongst young people in Mr Galloway's constituency and the news last week that Thomas Cook will be pulling nearly 500 jobs out of the city, it is difficult to argue against this viewpoint.  Many of the young people out enjoying themselves in City Park tonight are likely to go to University and then leave home for work because the city does not have the job opportunities.  Some young people might choose to start their own business, but what would make them want to choose to do this in Bradford than any other city.  There is a danger that the most skilled people will leave and will leave behind a population with lower employability than in other cities.

The amount of vacant space in the population, the unemployment rate, the high proportion of young people and the ability for Bradford to be able to reinvent itself differently to other large cities in the north should all align to make the centre of Bradford be a really special city in the next decade or so.  But it is very easy to find reasons to dismiss this and to write off the city.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Disillusion v Reasons To Be Cheerful

A personal blog from me, Tom:

I am trying hard to resist the top one, but I haven't been acknowledging the bottom one.

Bradfordia blog activity has dried up of late.  I think the usual issues with blogs of running out of ideas and running out of motivation have affected it.  It's not like there hasn't been anything happening in the city centre of late though, since my last blog post the Westfield site has been occupied and the Odeon saga continues to take many twists and turns.  Businesses in the city centre are still closing down, affected by the Westfield debacle and the poor trading conditions and the state of the economy that is having a negative impact nationally and internationally.

There is still lots of good things happening in the city centre, you only have to look at How Do?! Magazine or follow the 'right' people on Twitter (I should make a list) to see that.  City Park has been brilliant whilst the weather has been good, it is a massive shame that it wasn't used for the Mela (though it is easy to say that, with the benefit of hindsight) and also it is frankly baffling that the European Championships games aren't being shown on the big screen there.  Positive Bradford Day on June 22 and the Olympic Torch coming to town two days later are a great opportunity to celebrate the city centre and to get people down into town, hopefully with some sunshine.

The blog has been useful for me to get some ideas across about how the city centre could be improved, but I think I am now bereft of ideas (even though I have had some good ones, if I do say so myself).  As I've said before, the city centre needs a whole host of people to work together, but I'm not massively confident this will happen yet.   But there is still no reason why not.

So is this a final blog post for Bradfordia?  No.  If I get any great ideas or feel the need to say something about the city centre, then I will - just not had many ideas nor have I felt compelled to say anything of late.