[To detail the next steps for the production of an overall programme Communications and Engagement Plan, with support from Copper Consultancy.]
Charlotte Jordan, Account Director, Copper Consultancy delivered a presentation on Communication and Engagement Planning. It was noted that to develop a plan for communication and stakeholder engagement, the Council were in the process of commissioning Copper Consultancy to advise the Towns Fund Board on best practice and how to satisfy Government requirements. It was established that the company had previously been used to support the Future High Street Fund and their involvement in this project ensured continuity.
The presentation provided an outline of the key techniques recommended to develop a robust communications and engagement plan and business case including Planning; Timelines; Engagement Methods; Monitoring and Evaluation, Governance and Structure as well as how to engage with hard to reach stakeholders and overcome barriers, such as digital exclusion. This framework would inform the planning and delivery.
It was noted that two teams would be established; one to advise the Board on what is required by the Government in terms of communication and engagement and a second team that would work alongside the Board to create a narrative for the City and support development and delivery of the Plan. A copy of the presentation slides would be shared with Board members for future reference.
It was acknowledged that Copper Consultancy would work alongside the Board in an advisory capacity but ownership and accountability for the Communication and Engagement Plan lay with the Towns Fund Board.
In respect of the £1 million funding, it was clarified that the key projects were ready to begin delivery immediately once the funds became available; it was noted that the funding had been secured and receipt of the funds was expected by the end of September 2020. An update was to be provided at the next Board meeting of progress on the Key Projects within the TIP. It was clarified that 10 key projects had been approved for areas across the City, including Wednesfield and Bilston, and a list of these projects would be shared with Board members.
In response to queries around the resources and who would be delivering the communication and engagement plan, it was clarified that the second team from Copper would be working closely alongside members of the Board to develop and deliver the plan. What that would look like was yet to be determined, but it was suggested that perhaps the existing Key Project Working Groups or a sub-committee format could be used. This would be determined during a meeting in the next week whilst the outcome of the TIP application was awaited.
It was queried whether allowances would be made for delays or lack of sufficient responses due to barriers caused by the pandemic. Concerns lay around the fact that previously used face to face methods of engagement were unfeasible or that digital exclusion may delay or prevent stakeholders from contributing virtually. It was agreed that these unprecedented challenges must be acknowledged however, creative ways to mitigate these barriers should be explored as part of the Plan.
It was acknowledged that there needed to be clarity for the public on how the Towns Fund projects correlated with others, such as Westside Link, and who was accountable for which projects and the timelines for completion.
It was noted that the City was in a good place having applied among the first tranche of applications and were placed at 13 out of 100. It was noted that it was important that the City stood out amongst the others and Board members were encouraged to contribute by supporting, challenging and scrutinising the Plan.
It was reported that Business Week event had taken place in the same week as the meeting, which had included many of the members of Towns Fund Board and formed a strong foundation for an engagement programme.
The contributions of the Board thus far were commended and it was noted that the plans made possible by the Towns Fund would create a legacy within the City for future generations to enjoy.
4. That a summary of the 10 key projects relating to the £1 million capital accelerator grant be shared with Board members.