Preliminary moves are now being made towards delivering the UK Government-funded growth deal for the Borders promised by Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of last year’s general election.
No indication is being given yet of how much money the Borderlands growth deal is likely to yield for the region, but it is now another step closer to taking shape following a meeting held in Cumbria this week.
Borders MP David Mundell, UK Government northern powerhouse minister Jake Berry and representatives of Scottish Borders Council and the other four local authorities involved took part in talks in Carlisle in an effort to get the initiative up and running.
Last week’s negotiations were the first at ministerial level to be held to try to make progress on putting together the deal since Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond committed to setting aside an unspecified amont of cash to fund it in his November budget.
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP Mr Mundell, also Scottish Secretary, said: “We are continuing to make good progress towards a Borderlands growth deal, which has the potential to transform the economy of the whole region, creating jobs and increasing prosperity.
“We had a productive meeting with the five Borderlands local authority partners.
“I was impressed with their enthusiasm for, and the energy behind, creating a transformative deal.
“We will continue to work closely with the Borderlands partners to work up the detail of their proposals.
Mr Berry, MP for Rossendale and Darwen in Lancashire, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve fired the starting gun on this hugely exciting coast-to-coast Borderlands growth deal–something that will be unique in the UK.
“I am looking forward to us continuing progress working with the Borderlands councils and the Scottish Government in the coming months on developing an ambitious sector-led deal that will encourage growth and productivity to create thriving local economies both sides of the border.
The other local authorities involved are Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Northumberland County Council.
The aim of the deal is to encourage economic growth and attract more investors and visitors to towns and villages on both sides of the England-Scotland border.
Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for business and economic development, said: “We, along with our partners, were delighted to meet both ministers to discuss the Borderlands growth deal.
“The opportunities and ambitions are extensive and the challenges huge, but the commitment of local authorities and both UK and Scottish governments to the deal is clear and very welcome.
“Clearly, we have a lot of work to do, but alongside the south of Scotland economic partnership, our area has the fantastic prospect of transforming our economy through enterprise, skills and innovation.
“Discussions will continue with the UK and Scottish governments to ensure we seize the opportunity available, and we expect to see some significant progress made during 2018.”
The forthcoming Borderlands growth deal is one of two government-funded investment packages set to yield multi-million-pound payouts for the Borders, the other being the Edinburgh and south of Scotland city region deal signed off last year.
That £1.1bn deal is expected to see £15m spent on the Borders, mostly to develop a business park at Tweedbank.
A spokesman for the team working on the Borderlands deal added: “Our shared ambition is to play our full part in the regional and wider UK economy and unlock the potential of the south of Scotland and north of England.
“We welcomed the opportunity to discuss the Borderlands growth deal direct with ministers.
“Discussions were positive, and although they remain at a relatively early stage, we look forward to more collaboration and discussion with both the UK and Scottish governments.”