Agenda and minutes

Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel - Thursday, 21st January, 2021 6.00 pm

Venue: Via Microsoft Teams

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

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Election of Chair for the Meeting

Minutes:

In the absence of the Chair and Vice-Chair from the meeting, a Chair for the meeting was elected.  It was proposed, seconded and

 

Resolved: That Cllr Paul Birch J.P be elected as Chair of the Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel for this meeting only. 

 

Following the election of the Chair for the meeting, a one-minute silence was held in recognition and tribute to the work of former Councillor Pat Byrne, who the Cabinet Member announced, had sadly died.

 

Cllr Roberts and Cllr Simkins both spoke in tribute to Cllr Byrne work for the City and in particular to the East Park Ward.

2.

Apologies

[To receive any apologies for absence]. 

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Rupinderjit Kaur (Chair) and Cllr Christopher Haynes (Vice-Chair)

3.

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. 

4.

Minutes of previous meeting pdf icon PDF 495 KB

[To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 12 November 2020 as a correct record]. 

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on 21 January 2021 were confirmed as a correct record. 

5.

Matters Arising

Minutes:

Councillors asked for an update on the Future High Street Fund and the Town’s Fund.  The Scrutiny Officer advised that both of these issues would be covered later in the agenda under the Director’s Update item. 

6.

Grow Our Vital Local Businesses pdf icon PDF 337 KB

[To receive a report and presentation on the theme of, “Grow Our Vital Local Businesses”].

 

[Report is marked: To Follow]. 

Minutes:

The Director of Communications and Internal Relations, and the Head of Enterprise gave a presentation on the theme of “Grow Our Vital Businesses.”  A copy of the presentation is attached to the signed minutes. The presentation covered five areas:

 

1.     Impact of Covid-19 on businesses

2.     Brexit update

3.     Current business support offer

4.     Developing business support offer

5.     Questions  

 

The Director of Communications and Internal Relations commented that there were three key principles relating to the “Grow Our Vital Local Businesses” theme in the Council’s Relighting Our City strategy.  The three principles were being climate focused, being driven by digital, and fair and inclusive.

 

The Head of Enterprise remarked that 97% of the City’s businesses were small enterprises (employing less than 50 staff).  The highest employment sector in the City was health, followed by retail.  Employment levels in Wolverhampton were at 67.2% which was approximately 10% below the national average. 

 

The Head of Enterprise commented that due to Covid-19, some key sectors had been severely affected including hospitality, retail and leisure.  There were however some sectors which had experienced unprecedented growth including food, distribution, digital and communication.  There had been a one Council approach to support businesses to manage the impact of Covid.  She highlighted the main issues faced by businesses as Crisis Management and Response, Workforce, Finance and Long Term Challenges.

 

The Head of Enterprise highlighted that moving businesses online and accelerating digital transformation had been more challenging for some of the City’s businesses.  Managing disruption to operation and supply chains and complying with the latest government guidance and mandatory closure of non-essential businesses were all issues businesses had faced during the pandemic. 

 

The Head of Enterprises stated that businesses had to manage the health and wellbeing of employees which had been made ever more difficult due to the added pressure of home schooling.  They also had to support extremely vulnerable staff and those that were shielding.  Furlough had been extended to April 2021. She commented that as business activity slowed, there was less cash flow and therefore liquidity issues were arising.   The uncertainly of the future was having a big impact on businesses being able to plan effectively. 

 

The Head of Enterprise remarked that businesses had to let their staff work from home during the current phase of the pandemic unless they could not operate from home.  All businesses who could demonstrate a legitimate reason why their employees needed to be at work would be responsible for ensuring their workforce was tested at least once a week.  Any outbreak of Covid-19 would result in the business being closed immediately. 

 

The Head of Enterprise on the matter of Brexit stated that there would be no taxes on goods or limits on the amount that could be traded.  New Rules of Origin allowed for self-certification of goods as well as a 12-month grace period to allow time for manufacturers to adjust.  The UK was no longer obliged to comply with EU standards of data protection.  This was an  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Director's Update

[To receive a verbal update from the Director on work ongoing within the Directorate]. 

Minutes:

The Director of Regeneration gave an update on the areas that fell within his remit, a copy of the presentation is attached to the signed minutes.  On the matter of the Future High Streets Fund, the Council had been successful in securing a grant fund of £15.7 million from Government.  They were working to ensure all the business cases were finalised and they would then be going to the Council’s Cabinet for final sign off.  After Cabinet they would contact Government by the end of February to confirm their intentions to deliver the scheme.  The finances awarded were not the full amount they had wanted but they were confident they could deliver on the four key areas planned.  These were supporting projects on Victoria Street, Civic Halls, Cleveland Parade and Bell Street.  The funding ran until 2024, as part of the business cases they would be addressing the phasing for delivery.  

 

The Director of Regeneration remarked that the Interchange Project had been awarded the RTPI West Midlands Award for Planning Excellence.  The Project had also just won Regeneration Project of the Year at the Insider Property Awards having been shortlisted and nominated for three awards.  The Interchange Project was well into Phase two and was on programme for completion in Spring 2021.  It was hoped that the Metro line extension would be completed by Christmas 2021.  The i9 building was on course to complete on programme in July 2021.  Marketing of the site was now live and they were in advanced pre-let discussions. 

 

The Director of Regeneration stated that in principle, funding had been secured from the future High Streets Fund to support the delivery of public realm works outside of the Civic Halls.  They were in the final stages of the operator and commercialisation procurement process.  It was on the forward plan for Cabinet Approval in quarter 1 of 2021. Works to the main roof were well progressed and structural steels were being installed in the Civic and Wulfran Halls.  The project was on programme.

 

The Director of Regeneration spoke on Lower Horseley Fields.  Planning had been submitted in November 2020 for 372 units including commercial space at the former Union Mill Site.  The Planning application was due for determination in March 2021.  An application for gap funding had been submitted as part of the Towns Fund submission in July 2020.  They were still awaiting to hear from Government on whether the Town’s Fund submission had been successful.  He understood that the announcement would be made in February 2021.  He thought that they would receive some funding from the Town’s Fund but that it would be significantly less than that asked for in the bid submission.

 

The Director of Regeneration commented that there had been significant interest in the i54 Western Extension.  The project was currently delivering on programme and under budget.  He hoped there would be an announcement on the end user in a few months’ time.

 

The Chair, on behalf of the Panel congratulated Officers on the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 552 KB

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

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Officer presented the Panel’s current Work Programme.  For the next meeting in March there was the Portfolio Statement and Question Time item. 

 

The Chair stated that he had attended the Public Realm Reference Group meeting earlier in the day.  The Green Economy had been raised in respect to Green Transport.  He asked if this could be recommended to the Chair of the Vibrant and Sustainable City Scrutiny Panel for discussion at their Panel meeting next week, where he understand transport was an item on the agenda.  The Scrutiny Officer agreed to facilitate this recommendation.

 

The Cabinet Member raised the matter of the Green Economy and asked if this was an opportunity for the authority to champion and to approach the WMCA.  The Chair asked if this idea could be further explored by the Scrutiny and Systems Manager.      

9.

Future Meetings

The next scheduled meeting of the Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel is on Thursday, 18 March 2021 at 6pm. 

Minutes:

It was confirmed that the next meeting of the Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel would be on Thursday, 18 March 2021. 

 

 

The meeting closed at 7:36pm.