Agenda and minutes

Stronger City Economy Scrutiny Panel
Tuesday, 21st November, 2017 6.00 pm

Venue: Training Room, Ground Floor, Civic Centre, St Peter's Square, Wolverhampton WV1 1SH

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

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Cllr Jacqueline Sweetman. 

2.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

Cllr Philip Bateman declared a non-pecuniary interest as a Member of the West Midlands Partnership and the Wednesfield History Society.

3.

Minutes of previous meeting pdf icon PDF 82 KB

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

Minutes:

Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 26 September 2017 be approved as a correct record.

4.

Matters arising

[To consider any matters arising from the minutes]

Minutes:

There were no matters arising.

5.

Wednesfield - Local Economic Development and Growth pdf icon PDF 149 KB

[To consider a report on Wednesfield – Local Economic Development and Growth]

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed the witnesses to the Scrutiny Panel Meeting.  Four witnesses were present, Mr Richard Preston (Enterprise Manager from the Canal and River Trust), Mr Simon Hamilton (Vice Chair Hands on Wednesfield), Mr Simon Archer (West Midlands Magazines) and Mr Ray Fellows (Chairman of the Wednesfield History Society). 

 

Mr Preston stated that the Canal and River Trust was five years old.  It was presently the third largest charity in the UK.  They were responsible for 2,000 miles of canals and rivers across England and Wales and thus had operating bases across that area.  They were responsible for the maintenance of the assets such as bridges, locks and tunnels.  They were also responsible for the day to day maintenance across the network.  A significant amount of their core funding was allocated to maintenance work.  The Trust wanted canals and rivers to be used in a manner fit for the 21st Century which included for leisure and residence.  More people living in the London area, due to rising property prices, were increasingly choosing to live on water ways.   The Trust was looking to increase other uses of the canal such as angling, walking and cannoning.  The more canals were used in an appropriate manner, the more natural surveillance there would be, which consequently reduced anti-social behaviour. 

 

Mr Preston stated that the Trust saw itself more and more as a health and well-being charity because of the positive effect engagement with nature had on people.  There were lots of opportunities for the Trust to work with the Council in the area of health and well-being.  Work had started the previous day on a towpath from Horseley Fields Junction out to Bentley Bridge.  A challenge the Trust was always facing was litter, the Wednesfield section was no different.  They were working with Probation to put together a new workload to allow them to clean more of the water space.  There was a particular deficit in volunteers in the area around Wednesfield.  Cllr Bateman had been doing some sterling work for the Wednesfield Canal Festival which was attracting more support each year.  More volunteers were however wanted. Community groups were able to adopt part of their local canal as part of a national scheme, which he hoped would help attract more volunteers.  He saw the local nature reserve as a massive opportunity. 

 

The Scrutiny Officer asked if there were any challenges that the Council could assist the Canal Trust in helping them to achieve their objectives for Wednesfield.  Mr Preston responded that the Trust was working with the Council already with the Local Growth Fund on towpath refurbishment.  They were also working with the Council on the Wednesfield Canal’s Local Nature Reserve.  They were a partner with the Council on Blue Network - the European Regional Development Fund bid.  They did suffer from anti-social behaviour and so consequently any assistance from the Council would be appreciated.  He also saw opportunities for the Council and the Trust to work with the Community groups so  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018-2019 to 2019-2020 pdf icon PDF 91 KB

[To consider a report on the draft budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018-2019 to 2019-2020]

 

Report will be sent to follow

Minutes:

The Finance Business Partner (Place) presented a report on the Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018-2019 to 2019-2020.  The purpose of the report was to seek the Panel’s feedback on the Draft Budget 2018-2019, that had been approved by Cabinet to proceed to formal consultation and scrutiny stages.  The Panel’s feedback was also sought on the approach to budget consultation and key budget reduction proposals that were built into the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy. There was currently no new savings proposed in the service area for 2018-2019. 

 

The Service Director for City Economy stated there were two parts to the financial strategy in City Economy.  The first being how the service area used the mainline budget given by the Council, which was relatively small compared to some places and the second, how it secured external funding which formed a large proportion of the overall funding.  The inclusive growth work carried out by the service area created the base for the finance the Council held through the business rates and tax.  The City Economy Service had already achieved budget reductions.  The Council had been very successful in achieving external resources to fund business support and enterprise.  The small team had doubled as a consequence.   The finance for this had come principally from Central Government and European Structural Funds.  The Council had applied for an extension bid to secure more finance for the team. The Council was positioning itself to being a leader in the Black Country in business support and enterprise.  When the industrial strategy funds came through the Council would be well placed to continue work in this area, which was the foundation for having a good tax base.

 

The Service Director for City Economy stated that the City Development Team worked in a similar way and it was a small team undertaking capital projects.  They were mainly trying to secure the private sector to complete these projects rather than the Council directly.  They did however do a number of projects where there was a gap between them being viable for the private sector.  An essential part of their work was to secure funding from the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership), the West Midlands Combined Authority and other sources.  The Council’s investment into Wolves@Work and the Partnership the Council had with the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) was beginning to pay dividends in the number of people gaining employment and the support that was offered them in the initial stages of employment.   

 

The Service Director for City Economy stated that in the Cultural Visitor Economy, the service area was proud that they had secured Arts Council funding for the next four years.  Wolverhampton Council was one of the very few places to get an increase in their funding.  The Arts Council had been particularly impressed with the Literature Festival which the Council had started.  Capital and revenue funding had been secured from the Arts Council.  The overall strategy was about ensuring that everything the Council undertook delivered  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Presentation on Economic Evidence Base [Update]

[A PowerPoint presentation will be given on the Economic Evidence Base at the meeting]

Minutes:

Resolved: That the presentation slides on the Economic Evidence Base be circulated to all Members.