Agenda and minutes

Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel - Thursday, 12th November, 2020 6.00 pm

Venue: Via Microsoft Teams

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

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

[To receive any apologies for absence]. 

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Cllr Asha Mattu.

 

The Cabinet Member for City Economy, Cllr Stephen Simkins, had submitted his apologies.   

2.

Declarations of interest

[To receive any declarations of interest]. 

Minutes:

Cllr Phil Bateman MBE declared a non-pecuniary interest as a Member of the Canal and River Trust Advisory Board. 

3.

Minutes of previous meeting pdf icon PDF 477 KB

[To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record].

Minutes:

The minutes of the Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 10 September 2020 were confirmed as a correct record. 

4.

Matters arising

[To consider any matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting]. 

Minutes:

A Member of the Panel asked if there had been an update on the award of funding from the Future High Street Fund.  The Director of Regeneration responded that they were still awaiting to hear back from Central Government on whether the City would be allocated monies from the Future High Street Fund.  They had been asked by Central Government to ensure all their approvals were in place for match funding, if Future High Street Funds became available.  The match funding proposals had been received by the Council’s Cabinet earlier in the week, meaning all the approvals were in place.  There had however been no confirmation from Central Government to the outcome of the Council’s bid or when there would be an announcement on allocation of funding.    

 

A Member of the Panel asked if there had been an update on the Town’s Fund bid which had been submitted in July to transform the City Centre, Bilston and Wednesfield.  At the previous meeting it had been hoped there would be an announcement from Government by the end of October.  The Director for Regeneration responded that the Council had not received a response.  He had in fact raised the issue with the local MPs that very day.  It was looking unlikely that the Council would hear anything from Government in the short term.  There had recently been a press announcement when the first seven Town’s Fund areas received funding.  He was however still positive that Wolverhampton would receive favourable news in due course and hopefully within the next few weeks.

 

 

 

              

5.

Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy pdf icon PDF 495 KB

[To receive a report on the draft Buget and Medium Term Financial Strategy]. 

 

[Report is marked: To Follow]. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Finance Business Partner introduced the report on the draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-2022 to 2023-2024.  The Panel were being asked to provide feedback on the budget relevant to the Panel and how it was aligned to the priorities of the Council.  They were also being asked to provide feedback on the draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy report that was appended to the main report.  There was a recommendation that the Panel’s comments be forwarded to the Scrutiny Board for consideration. 

 

The Finance Business Partner summarised the main points of the report.  The draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy was different to previous years because it covered the Council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The report detailed the cost of Covid-19 for the year and the projected financial implications for the medium term.  It listed the one off grants the Council had received to compensate for some of the impacts of Covid-19.  The report detailed the next steps the Council would be taking to address the financial pressures faced by the Council over the medium term.

 

The Finance Business Partner commented that the report set out the “Relighting Our City” agenda, explaining the transition from the response to the recovery phase of the pandemic.  The Council was assuming that the Government would provide a sufficient grant to cover the cost of Covid-19.  If this was the case the forecast deficit, without the impact of Covid-19 for 2021-2022, was estimated to be £4.5 million, rising to £19.6 million over the medium term.  Savings were being considered by directorates at the present time to meet the budget gap.  If funding was not awarded from Government to meet the continued financial pressures arising from Covid-19, the impact on the Council would be significant.  A fundamental review of all services would need to take place to enable them to set a balanced budget.  If the Council did not receive the Covid-19 grants from Government, the deficit for 2021-2022 could rise to a minimum of £23.2 million and increasing to £40 million over the medium term.

 

The Director for Regeneration commented on the service budget detailed within the report.  The report listed the key capital and revenue projects the service was working on in section 5. 

 

A Member of the Panel asked for clarity as to budget for health.  The Chief Accountant responded that the pie chart in the report referred to Public Health.  The Pie Chart represented millions of pounds.  Public Health was funded via the Public Health grant. 

 

Resolved: The panel agreed the recommendations set out in the report.

 

         

6.

Generate More Jobs and Learning Opportunities pdf icon PDF 341 KB

[To provide an overview of the key work that is being led by the Regeneration Directorate, working with a number of services across the council, to deliver the ‘Generate More Jobs and Learning Opportunities’ priority set out in the Council’s Relighting Our City strategy.  Briefing note is attached.]

 

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Education and Skills stated that the future of Wolverhampton would depend on the ability of the City to reskill people across the age groups into jobs which would be available in the future.  The world had dramatically changed due to the impact of Covid-19.  The Regeneration Directorate was cross cutting against many work streams including important partnerships such as the Black Country LEP, Central Government, WMCA, Adult Education and the Colleges.  This vital work was important to the reskilling agenda.  He commended the work which had taken place to date by the Directorate. 

 

The Director for Regeneration introduced the presentation on generating more jobs and learning opportunities priority.  The presentation aimed to cover the key emerging work and the deliverables.  The “Relighting our City” plan had five key areas, one of these was generating more jobs and learning opportunities. 

 

The Head of Enterprise commented that unemployment levels were increasing in the City.  There had been changes in the economy, such as some sectors shrinking with others having unprecedented growth.  The younger people in the City had been disproportionately affected.  It was also clear that people in their over 50s in long term employment were being affected by redundancy.  They were still grappling with the issue that a high number of people in Wolverhampton were classed as having a high number of low or no skills.  The digital divide in the City had been exemplified due to Covid-19. 

 

The Head of Enterprise stated that the combined total of NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and Not Known 16-18-year olds in the City was 589.   33% of these (197) were currently being supported.  They did however wish to engage with the remaining number.  55% of Care Leavers aged 19-21 were in in EET (in Education, Employment or Training) this was a higher proportion than the Council’s neighbours where the average was 47%. 

 

The Head of Enterprise commented that 433 young people aged 18-25 in Wolverhampton had an ECHP (Education, Health Care Plan).  These plans were important because people aged 18-25 were a key group who were likely to be at risk of being long term unemployed.  In Year 12, there had been 71 people who had dropped out in the academic year of 2019-2020. 

 

The Head of Enterprise on the subject of digital, commented that prior to Covid-19 an estimated 35,000 residents had not been online in the last three months and 59,000 lacked all digital skills.  The presentation slide referred to 60% of Wolves at Work clients and 25% of Impact clients unable to access support online.  Three strategic businesses in the City had submitted a HR1 Redundancy notice.  She presented a slide on the unemployment claimant rate for 16-64 year olds.  The number of unemployed claimants in the City aged 16-64 was 17,280 which was 10.6%.  The national average in England was 6.6%.  The top three wards in Wolverhampton that had the highest number of claimants as a percentage of residents aged 16-64 years old  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Update from Director of Regeneration on Regeneration Projects

[To receive a verbal update from the Director of Regeneration on the Regeneration Projects taking place within the City of Wolverhampton].

Minutes:

A short video was displayed showing some of the Council’s regeneration projects within the City. 

 

The Head of City Development presented slides on some of the Council’s key regeneration projects in the City.  The Lower Horseley Fields would provide 370 residential units incorporating the historic Union Mill buildings.  The planning application had been submitted on 6 November 2020.  A CGI video was shown on how the project would look.  Construction was expected to start in 2021. 

 

The Head of City Development spoke on the Interchange project.  This was a partnership delivery between the Council, Network Rail and Transport for West Midlands.  It was a fully integrated multi-modal transport hub.  Phase 1 of the new station facility had now been completed and was open to the public.  Phase 2 was well underway and was scheduled for completion in Spring 2021.  The Metro line extension, which would terminate outside the train station, was due for completion in the latter part of 2021.  The Interchange project had been shortlisted for the RTPI Award for Planning Excellence and also for three Insider West Midlands Property Awards.

 

The Head of City Development talked about the i9 Project.  This was a 50,000 square foot office floorspace.  It was an award winning Glenn Howells designed building.  It had had been designed to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating and WiredScore ‘Gold’ Standard.  Construction was well underway and the contractor Grahams were currently on programme to complete the building in the Summer of 2021.

 

The Head of City Development referred to the Civic Halls Project.  This was a £38 million investment into future proofing the largest entertainment, events and leisure venue in the Black Country.  The structural steel was being delivered to the site, with installation work having started.  Works to the main roof had commenced with a construction completion projected in late 2021.  A bid to the Future High Streets Fund had been submitted with an aim to secure funding to support the delivery of the public realm works outside the Civic Halls.  The Civic Halls project it was hoped would help reinvigorate the City’s night time economy. 

 

The Head of City Development presented a slide on i54, which was a continuing success.  The i54 Western Extension (South) was a joint venture between City of Wolverhampton Council and Staffordshire County Council.  The scheme would provide up to 100,000 m2 of B1 and B2 end uses and generate up to 1,700 new jobs.  The Southern 60-acre site was under development and was controlled by City of Wolverhampton Council.  The project was currently scheduled to deliver on time and very much on budget.

 

Panel Members praised the positivity of the presentation.  A Panel Member praised the interchange project and commented that he hoped to see the metro line further extended in the future to other parts in Wolverhampton. The Director for Regeneration responded that discussions with the WMCA were taking place around the metro line extending through the City and linking in i54 and the hospital site.  They were strategic conversations  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Work Programme for the Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel pdf icon PDF 551 KB

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

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Officer presented on the latest version of the Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel Work Programme.  At the next meeting of the Panel in January 2021, the Panel would be considering the “Growing the City’s Vital Businesses Theme.”  The Director of Communications and External Relations was the Strategic Executive Board lead for this particular “Relighting our City Theme.”  He hoped the visitor economy suggested by Cllr Philip Bateman at the last meeting could also be incorporated into the item.  For the March meeting there was the Portfolio Holder Statement and Question Time item, when it was intended for Cllr Simkins as the Cabinet Member for City Economy to present to the Panel.  There was some capacity in the work plan and so Members could contact the Scrutiny Team with suggestions.  He referred to a number of questions which were important to consider when deciding what to include in the Work Plan.  These were as follows: -

 

1.     Is the issue in the public interest?

2.     How does it link to the Connected City Theme?

3.     How can scrutiny add value by looking at it?

4.     Where is the evidence to support looking at this issue?

5.     Can we evidence impact?

6.     Is there a change to National Policy?

7.     Does it affect citizens across the City?

8.     Are there performance concerns?

9.     Is it a safety issue?

 

There could be items suggested by Members which could be completed via informal meetings or by email.  He stressed the importance of the digital theme which had been given to the Scrutiny Panels and relating this to any items on the work plan. 

 

9.

Future Meeting Dates

The future meeting dates of the Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel are as follows:-

 

21 January 2021 at 6pm

 

18 March 2021 at 6pm

Minutes:

The future meeting dates of the Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel were confirmed as follows:-

 

21 January 2021 at 6pm

 

18 March 2021 at 6pm

 

The Chair wished anyone who celebrated Diwali a happy celebration.  As the Panel would be not meeting again until 2021, she also wished everyone a Happy New Year and Christmas Holiday in advance. 

 

The meeting closed at 7:36pm.