David Cameron backs Bristol's plan for arena
THE Prime Minister has backed Bristol’s push to build a world-class indoor arena.
Speaking to the Post at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, David Cameron said he would love to see Bristol host the event in future, once it had the right facilities.
Mr Cameron said hosting the Tory conference in the city would be a “win-win” situation, telling the Post any offer would be seriously considered – “if Bristol could host us”.
The Prime Minister also urged people to get behind the new City Deal struck between Whitehall and Bristol’s leaders, which is said to be worth £1 billion to the local economy.
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And he distanced himself from the controversial pay deal being struck between NHS bosses that unions say will lead to pay cuts for Bristol’s nurses.
For the second time in three years, Birmingham’s International Convention Centre is hosting the Tory Party conference. Liverpool and Manchester also regularly host the three major parties, with their up-to-date conference facilities replacing the traditional seaside venues.
There are high hopes a 12,000-seat arena could be built in the new Enterprise Zone and the leading contenders in the race to be elected mayor are all backing the proposals.
Mr Cameron told the Post: “Taking the conferences to Britain’s great cities is good for the cities and good for the Tory Party – I think it’s been a win-win.
“Bristol is a great city and so if Bristol could host us and make an offer I’m sure that the chairs of the party would have a good look at that.”
The latest plans to come forward for an £80 million arena in the Temple Meads Enterprise Zone would use cash from Bristol’s City Deal, signed earlier this year.
The Government has promised the flagship deals represent a revolution for Britain’s largest cities outside London, including a raft of new transport powers for Bristol that will herald the long-awaited metro rail system.
Asked what tangible improvements it would mean for Bristol, Mr Cameron said: “The idea is that the city and the government talk to one another about what more could be done, if the government offers up money and powers.
“Crucially the city itself has to think what could we do, what is the derelict land we could develop, what is the money we can put into the deal, what are the ways we can help business.”
Mr Cameron said the deals had to be a “two-way”, and added that it would be “all to the good” if Bristol’s arena hopes became a reality under its city deal.
The Prime Minister paid a personal visit to Bristol to announce the launch of the Enterprise Zone last year and toured the proposed site near Temple Meads station.
As reported in the Post last week Colin Skellett, the man in charge of the project, is confident the long-awaited arena will be built within the next four years.
Mr Cameron was also asked about controversial changes to the way public sector pay is set.
Ministers are considering ditching national rates for teachers and nurses, who are currently paid the same across the country. This would allow local pay and conditions to be set according to the economy – sparking fears of pay cuts outside the South East. Mr Cameron said he backed a more “flexible” approach.
Asked specifically about the NHS South West “cartel”, he said: “It’s a matter for those NHS trusts themselves. We should be allowing organisations greater flexibility in pay, in terms of what is necessary to recruit, retain and motivate their staff.
“Obviously there are national pay norms they can opt into, but I think that allowing local institutions flexibility is sensible.”
Mr Cameron defended the government’s controversial planning reforms, which critics fear could erode the green belt and lead to rows between neighbours on unsightly extensions, which no longer need planning permission up to eight metres.
He said: “We want to get Britain building. I think that encouraging people who have always wanted to put on that extension, or add something to their house, I think that is a good idea.”
The Prime Minister also defended the decision to press on with a review of constituency boundaries – despite the Liberal Democrats vowing to scupper the plans as revenge for the demise of House of Lords reform.
It means Parliament will still vote on the new boundaries, which would have a drastic effect on the Thornbury and Yate seat held by Steve Webb, although they are unlikely to ever come into use.