No Green Bank for Brum
So it's official then. In an announcement from Vince Cable late last week, we heard that Birmingham has not emerged winner of the competition to host the Government's flagship Green Investment Bank (GIB), having been placed equal last out 5 finalists - jointly with Milton Keynes. And behind Peterborough. No offence, but honestly...!
Instead, the Government has decided that Edinburgh should be the site of the new headquarters for the GIB, with many proclaiming the city's lead on all things green and financial. The news even had Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond forgetting his grievances with London, commenting; "The decision recognises Scotland's position at the vanguard of the renewables revolution...", so that's okay then.
Apparently the decision to place the Scottish capital ahead of the other 31 competing locations had nothing to do with the Government's desire to keep the Union together. London, capital of the Union, in case you'd forgotten, has not been passed over however, with the Bank's main transaction team based there. So, the spoils go to London and Edinburgh.
And it's hard not to notice that a decision based purely on a location's ability to provide good local expertise, a strong financial services heritage and green energy skills overlooks Birmingham and just happens to choose the home of the Scottish parliament, at a time when the Scots are being asked to vote for independence - who'd have guessed.
Not only did Birmingham get overlooked for obviously lacking in the areas of expertise outlined above, but the 'powers that be' have pronounced Birmingham as being 'mainly weak' for financial services.
I think that's the bit that really grates. Oh, and also the fact that Manchester, which came third, was described as having a financial services sector 'mainly strong'.
We have a vibrant and extensive professional services and banking sector here in Birmingham. It's hard to work out where we fall short. The focus was on the ability of the Bank to recruit and retain staff with the necessary expertise and quality. So perhaps we're perceived as overly loyal to our current employers, so that a job offer to come and join the new Bank would be a hard sell. On the other hand, perhaps Brummies have a reputation for being footloose and quick to jump ship, so that the prospect of trying to keep talented staff in post was considered too risky.
If it truly was all about 'Location, Location, Location', then Kirstie Allsop could have done a better job of selecting a winner.
Of course, all of this is irrelevant now. But we should congratulate the team that put together the bid on Birmingham's behalf, given our near miss compared to the other 27 locations placed behind us. A mention should also made for an excellent submission from Coventry and Warwickshire, put together by Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council, The University of Warwick, Coventry University and Severn Trent - with a strong endorsement from Eon.
However, whilst naturally disappointing, we shouldn't let this decision on the location of the Bank detract from the bigger picture. The Bank's role is to encourage investment in the green sector, which is thriving right across the Midlands.
I have calmed a little now and on reflection, the importance of "a compelling vision of where the country is heading beyond sorting out the fiscal mess", as Vince Cable so eloquently put it, is definitely more important than this single location, location, location, decision.
And the most important thing is not the 50-70 jobs that would have been created, but the thousands that will be created across the city and wider region if local businesses are able to access funding from this bank to continue development of the area's green economy.
Of course, should the Scottish people choose independence and a break from the Union, one wonders what will happen to the GIB. I would like to see how the relevant clauses in the agreement to site the bank in Scotland have been worded, but that's probably just the lawyer in me.