Agenda and minutes

Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel
Monday, 25th November, 2019 6.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 3 - Civic Centre

Contact: Martin Stevens  Email: martin.stevens@wolverhampton.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

[To receive any apologies for absence]. 

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Cllr Udey Singh and Cllr Jonathan Yardley.

 

Cllr Louise Miles as Portfolio Holder for Finance submitted her apologies.

 

The Director for Regeneration, Richard Lawrence submitted apologies due to being away on work related matters in China.

2.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

Cllr Bateman declaration an interest as he sat on the Advisory Board for the Canal and River Trust.

3.

Minutes of previous meeting pdf icon PDF 322 KB

[To approve the minutes of the previous meeting]. 

Minutes:

Cllr Collingswood stated that he had given his apologies for previous meeting and requested that these be noted.

 

 

4.

Matters arising

[To consider any matters arising from the minutes]. 

Minutes:

Cllr Paul Birch provided a verbal update on the matters referred to on page eight of the minutes.

 

Cllr Birch stated that he had attended a meeting in St. Peter’s and was very pleased to report that the team had found a solution to the problem of the lych gate which was very important as it was relied upon for every civic event.

 

The Church had a small community of its own of about 150 people and it was very important to protect these people and to enable them to continue to worship at the Church.  The resolution involved traffic flowing in one direction only, which would also deal in part with issues concerning the buses.

 

Cllr Bateman stated that plans for public transport services and the way they would be integrated appeared promising. There had been a decent debate at the meeting and he was pleased to see that bus operators had been present.

 

Another meeting was planned with the chair of the committee and the Operator would be in the room to respond to some of the issues. It was thought that this would be hugely beneficial to hear. Issues were now being addressed in a way that would not have happened without Cllrs Bateman and Birch present.

 

Cllr Sweetman stated that she was glad to hear that some resolutions were being put forward but was also conscious of making sure that the Panel were kept informed of these and the decisions that were then made.

 

The Panel queried where the funding had come from for the scaffolding at St. Peter’s. It was confirmed that this would have come from the community and the Church Commissioners (Diocese of Lichfield).  Cllr Birch stated that Ruth Taylor was the Officer who accompanied him and that she was very impressive.

 

The meeting had also considered the issue of dirty buses. Cllr Bateman stated that the Head of Service had responded to him on this matter but that more information was required and that discussions were needed with the Traffic Commissioner.

 

The Panel considered that issue of building 10,000 homes in the city and that this was actually 10,000 homes across the city and queried whether anyone had information about these homes.

 

The Head of Enterprise stated that this information could be provided and agreed that it was important for transport issues.

 

The Head of Enterprise updated the Panel regarding the issue of City branding and reputation that had been raised at the previous meeting. Since that meeting, the Director of Communications had adopted a more holistic view regarding marketing the City and how best to attract business tourism and investors etc. The Director would be keen to share this with the Panel in the early part of next year.

5.

Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2020-2021 to 2023-2024 - Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel pdf icon PDF 447 KB

[To consider the Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2020-2021 to 2023-2024]. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A report was considered seeking the Panel’s feedback on the budget relevant to its remit and how it was aligned to the priorities of the Council.

 

In addition to this, the Panel’s feedback was also sought on the Draft Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy 2020-2021 to 2023-2024 that was presented to Cabinet on 16 October 2019 including budget proposals relevant to the remit of the Panel.

 

The Panel welcomed the Finance Business Partner to the meeting.  It was noted that the format of the report was slightly different this year. The net revenue budget 2019-2020 for Stronger City Economy was £6.4 million and the approved general find capital programme 2019-2020 to 2023-2024 was £159.6 million.

 

The Panel queried the format of the reports and the fact that income was shown in parenthesis which was different to how some members were used to seeing it; there was concern that it could lead to confusion. 

 

It was noted that businesses and local authorities had to abide by different accounting rules and officers agreed to circulate copies of the appropriate guidance from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

 

The Panel considered that many of the items under its consideration dealt with improving and changing the City to attract more people and increase footfall. Concerns were therefore raised about the table on page 15 of the agenda which appeared to show a weaker budget in this area when a stronger budget was required if the aims of the Council and the aspirations of the Panel were to be realised.

 

The Panel referred to the City learning quarter budget listed on pg. 16 of the report and were understanding as to why a large budget was required for this but queried what the Targeting Disposals Programme was. Officers confirmed that this dealt with properties the Council owned that they were looking to dispose of in order to make the Council’s estate more efficient.

 

The Panel also considered the tremendous impact that Wolves at Work had had on the City and questioned the proposal to discontinue its funding. Officers explained that they were currently looking for ways to fund the initiative into the future and confirmed that money from the City Learning Quarter and Cultural Estates could not be used as one was capital and the other was revenue.

 

The Panel questioned whether there might be any funding available through the West Midlands Combined Authority to help fund Wolves at Work which had now helped get just under 5000 residents into work and facilitated 600 business engagements (more than had been originally expected).

 

Officers stated that there had originally been 1.5 million input for the Council to Wolves at Work and 1.5 million from the Department for Work and Pensions and it was incumbent on the Council to evidence how it had used these devolved funds. There was another year of funding up to 2021 and it was important for the Council to make the initiative sustainable and prove this to the West  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Careers and Employability work in Schools pdf icon PDF 473 KB

[To consider a briefing note on careers and employability in schools]. 

Minutes:

The Skills and Employability Manager provided a presentation to the Panel, highlighting the careers and employability offer in schools which was directly provided by or commissioned by the Council, or delivered by partners such as the Black Country LEP in close partnership with the Council.

 

There were a number of services that coexisted and integrated through connexions which allowed users to access different services at different times.

The Council’s Workbox initiative underlay all of this and Officers stated that they would encourage all clients to sign up to Workbox to get as much help and guidance as they could.

 

The main services that were provided to schools under the theme of careers and employability were:

 

1. Connexions

2. Work experience

3. Careers and Enterprise support

 

It was noted that Connexions and the Council’s service provision to reduce young people not in education, employment or training (NEETS) was showing the best performance for many years. City of Wolverhampton was now best in the Black Countryfor the number of young people aged 16 18 who were participating in education, training and employment.

 

Work around those not in education, employment or training (NEETS) was also now based in the Civic Offices with drop in sessions available twice a week. This was working well and included support from an officer in the Youth Offending Team to help pick up young offenders and those with Special Education Needs.

 

The Enterprise Lead Officer worked in partnership with schools to ensure they were fulfilling their obligation with regards to careers such as ensuring students participated in enterprise activities, helping schools to forge links with employers, planning activities that were most effective in motivating young people, supporting independent choices and supporting positive outcomes.

Through delivery of the programme for the academic year 18-19 more than 15,000 students had benefited from the programme through the following activities:

 

·       Work Experience preparation;

·       Interview Preparation;

·       Practice Interviews;

·       Careers Fairs;

·       Speed Networking;

·       Guess My Job;

·       Guest speakers for assemblies;

·       Apprenticeship talks;

·       Meet the real apprentice;

·       Visit to Universities;

·       Visits to the workplace;

·       Enterprise challenges;

·       Employers supporting teachers in linking curriculum learning to different careers

 

The Work Experience Lead Officer had supported schools and the College through the Work Experience Support Service Level Agreement for over 20 years. The service was fully funded via schools.

 

Achievements to date included:

 

·       2563 students supported to access work experience in 2018/19

·       387 new employers engaged in 2018/19

·       100 work experience placements supported in the Council with 34% being from BAME backgrounds and 5 with disabilities.

 

It was hoped that this work would help to bring the Wolves at Work initiative to phase 2 where the scheme would help a young person when leaving school or choosing their options. The scheme would involve having personal advisors in schools picking young people and supporting them before they left.  By doing this it was hoped that even more barriers would be removed that might stop a young person getting into work, these included ensuring the young person had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Work Plan for the Panel pdf icon PDF 278 KB

[To consider the Work Programme for the Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel]. 

Minutes:

The Panel considered that it was vital to ensure that all parts of the City were included in any polices or strategies moving forward.

 

Resolved:     That the workplan be agreed.