7: Bristol’s City Funds
Mayor Marvin Rees formed a strategic partnership with Bristol and Bath Regional Capital (BBRC),81 Quartet82 and other stakeholders in the city to establish ‘City Funds’ to mobilise local investment into the priority areas, such as housing and employment, as part of the City Council’s inclusive growth strategy.
The City’s emerging One City Plan, including 20 to 30 priorities for achieving inclusive growth, will form the business plan for the City Funds. Three to four of the priorities per year will be selected for investment either through financing or grant funding. The governing body for the City Funds – with representation from the Mayor’s Office, the voluntary and community sector, education and training, and professional organisations83 – will have responsibility for reviewing the plan and selecting annual investment priorities. Decisions will be guided by what falls into the “zone of innovation” where the intervention is “different and additional to current activity.”84
Once the investment priorities have been agreed on, ‘Task and Finish’ groups will be formed of the relevant experts and stakeholders. These groups will have responsibility for monitoring progress against the objectives as set out in the One City Plan and identifying the limiting factors, if expected progress is not made.
Role of the Mayor and City Council
The City Funds are managed independently of the City Council in part as the political cycle (four to five years) is not likely to align with the investment timeframe (which may be 10 years, for example). The City Council has no contractual responsibility or rights with regards to the City Funds. Instead, the organisations managing the funds, BBRC and Quartet, will hold contractual responsibility. This is to instil confidence in potential investors change in political leadership is not going to result in funding cuts to a particular investment area.
The role of the Mayor and the City Council is to champion and promote investment into the City Funds. A representative from the Mayor’s Office will also sit on the governing body. The Council also allow the Funds to use the City Council’s branding and will use powers to remove any blockages to investment and intervention. A number of partners have been willing to collaborate to help establish the Funds due to the permission and backing given from the Mayor.
Partners have set a hard target to raise around £10 million of additional funding to invest in these areas and are seeking match funding partners to help achieve this aim. Partners are seeking to raise this money from a combination of repayable finance and grant funding, and are scoping out potential funders. Within this, partners are also exploring which funders are likely to invest in ‘backbone support’ for the Funds. To date, the Fund has been reliant on partners contributing their time on top of doing their day job.
Part of the Funds’ longer term ambition is to attract the private sector to donate a proportion of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) budget. The Mayor and partners are asking for around 10 per cent of businesses’ CSR or marketing budgets, in return for match funding and better coordination of spending in the city for improved outcomes. Their pitch to business is that inclusive growth is good for the bottom line, attracts staff and creates a resilient customer base. Partners are keen to establish a strong narrative and clarity on the intended impacts to avoid viewing it another form of tax.
The Fund is also targeting national organisations, such as the Big Society Capital, Power to Change, Esmée Fairbairn and the Big Lottery Fund.