Progress being made with city’s plans to make Stoke-on-Trent litmus test for Government’s ‘levelling up’ ambitions

Published: Tuesday, 6th July 2021

Significant progress is being made against Stoke-on-Trent’s plans to make the city the true litmus test for Government’s levelling up ambitions.

This is according to a new Powering Up update report published yesterday (Monday 5 July). The news comes at the same time as a number of bids for additional funding investment for the city – to the Levelling Up Fund and Community Renewal Fund - have been submitted to Government. Bids totalling £76.5 million overall have been put forward.

The new report provides details on progress being made against the Powering Up Stoke-on-Trent City Prospectus which was launched in February 2021 to help secure partnership and investment in Stoke-on-Trent.

Powering Up Stoke-on-Trent originally cast the city as the litmus test for the Government’s ‘levelling up’ ambitions, part of the Government’s policy to address inequality and ‘level up’ left-behind parts of the UK. 

It set out simply and clearly the priorities for Stoke-on-Trent and what it would take to achieve them, focussing on four key areas: Transport, Economic Development, Education & Skills, and Health & Productivity. It included a number of target programmes, projects and changes that could make the biggest difference for the city. Since then, significant steps forward have been made in all areas, according to the report. 

This includes the introduction of a City Forum, a new partnership put in place to drive forward plans in the city and the launch of Silicon Stoke, the city’s masterplan for a gigabit connected city, providing the platform for an extensive 5G network for Stoke-on-Trent and plans to become a Smart City where digital enterprise can thrive.

In transport, highlights include the delivery of the Etruria Valley Link Road which is set to be completed in December 2022 and progress on key pinch points in the city including at Bucknall New Road corridor, Waterloo Road / Cobridge Road Junction and the recently completed roundabout works at Joiners Square.  More investments than ever before have been directed to maintaining and improving the road network, with £13.17m set aside to resurface 60 miles of carriageway in 2021. 50 busses are also being upgraded to high environmental standards.

In economic development, highpoints include 1,071,299.7 sq ft of space for employment use being agreed for planning permission in the last 12 months, the extension of the business rate discount incentive scheme for five years at the hugely successful Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone and the approval of planning for Tunstall Arrow Phase 2, which will provide an additional 109,250 sq. ft of industrial workspace and 200 new job opportunities in the local area. £96,050,963 of resources have also been distributed to businesses in the city and 150 businesses have been helped to make digital improvements.

While in education and skills, the city is set to benefit from a fifth year of the Opportunity Area programme that is supporting improvements in maths, science and English learning, and progression for young people beyond school. The new Florence MacWilliams free school has been agreed to proceed to opening in Longton and options for a specialist digital free school are being submitted into wave 15 of the government’s free school programme when that round opens. Over £17.5 million of funding has also been agreed from government to support children with special education needs, including £7.5 million to provide a satellite to Watermill Special School to improve the educational offer available in the city.

Progress has also been achieved in tackling ill health in the city that prevents people from working and getting the most out of life. Four obsessions for the year have been agreed by the Stoke-on-Trent Health and Wellbeing Board under the new chairmanship of the leader of the council. New ways of working are being pioneered with a national organisation National Development Team for inclusion first in Burslem, then in Blurton and Bentilee.

In addition, from this summer, the city council will be delivering the Department of Work and Pensions Restart programme, operating out of three hubs – north, central and south, for the longer term unemployed in the city, tackling mental and physical health issues that are preventing people getting and staying in work. Commitment has also been given to the extension of a 24/7 Covid mental health response service.

Powering Up Stoke-on-Trent is underpinned by a series of funding bids, which look to accelerate the targets set out in the prospectus. The bids have been put together by Stoke-on-Trent working with all three local members of Parliament. It follows a review of projects that were considered ‘best fit’ to the Levelling up prospectus.

The four bids being put forward cover a diverse range of areas and include pitches for investment into The Goods Yard, the City Centre Regeneration Area (East/West Precinct), Town Centres Heritage and Culture and Bus Network Improvements, all of which are major initiatives outlined in Powering Up Stoke-on-Trent. Bids will be determined by Government later this year.

The Community Renewal Fund bids have been put together working with groups and organisations across the city. Building on targets within the prospectus, they include a series of exciting options citywide in digital, enterprise and skills aiming to help people into employment and to provide support in certain sectors such as care, arts and culture. Government is likely to confirm outcomes at the end of July. 

The work has been led by cllr Abi Brown, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council and cllr Daniel Jellyman, deputy leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council. It’s backed by the three Stoke-on-Trent MPs – Jack Brereton for Stoke-on-Trent South, Jo Gideon for Stoke-on-Trent Central and Jonathan Gullis for Stoke-on-Trent North.

Cllr Brown, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “This new report outlines the amazing progress being made in so many areas in the city despite COVID-19. It shows that we really are the litmus test for levelling up. With determination, momentum and collaboration, we are continuing to turn around Stoke-on-Trent’s economic fortunes. We are one of the fastest local economies to rebound from covid, outstripping swathes of the UK in terms of economic growth, job creation and innovation.

“We are being clear with government around what we want to achieve and are now asking for funding to help support this work across Stoke-on-Trent. We have worked closely with MPs who have led this initiative to submit bids that are strategic for the city and have worked hard to ensure they are the best bids they can possibly be. If successful, these bids are economically deliverable and will have maximum impact for the wider population. At the same time, we’re clear that if these bids aren’t successful, we’ll do all we can to deliver on them anyway.

“My thanks go to those across the community who have worked hard to help us develop bids for the Community Renewal Fund. We were inundated with submissions and sadly have only been able to take forward those that we believe are most likely to be successful. I have been hugely impressed by the talented, dedicated and committed individuals and organisations across this city.”

Cllr Daniel Jellyman, deputy leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “This work focuses on delivering tangible improvements for residents across a range of areas including improving bus travel for people in the city. Through the bid, our aim is to improve the ability for the local bus network to help people access employment and education. Currently public transport can be limited for many people. This proposal aims to reduce the barriers to people using the local bus network by improving access, availability of information and punctuality.”

For more information and to view the progress report, go to 

To read the report linked to the Stoke-on-Trent City Forum, including a new feedback report, go to

To see the cabinet papers in relation to levelling up, go to item 10