[To receive a verbal update on the construction of the Towns Fund Stakeholder and Engagement Plan.]
Fiona Woolston, Copper Consultancy delivered a presentation outlining the construction of the Towns Fund Stakeholder and Engagement Plan. The presentation provided an overview of the timeline and plans for delivery.
It was noted that the plan was to be implemented in stages to allow for the possibility that the funding supplied may not cover all 11 Key Projects. The first stage was being developed to correlate with Project Relight.
The main goal was to engage with the groups and communities that the Key Projects were likely to affect to gain an understanding at grass roots level. Extensive research had been conducted around past stakeholder and community engagement projects to construct a best practice approach by learning from previous methods.
It was acknowledged that effective communication of expected delivery timelines would be beneficial to ensure public understanding of perceived overlong timescales. Being mindful of ‘consultation fatigue’ was important to note so the public did not tire of the same messages.
It was also important to ensure that there was not just one Local Authority voice but many partner organisations and local business owners engaging with residents and communities. This would ensure that residents could relate to the Key Projects being City initiatives owned by everyone. Project Champions would also be identified to support this.
It was outlined that next immediate steps would include an evaluation and it was planned that a first draft of the plan would be prepared by 11 December 2020 with an update on progress for the next meeting of Towns Fund Board.
In response to a query around funding for the consultancy involvement, it was noted that the Council would be providing the funding.
It was queried whether the plan had been formulated with the receipt of the full £48 million funding in mind. It was noted that 11 Key Projects formed the basis of the funding bid and that each project has been prioritised using factors such as match funding or deliverability. Should the full funding not be awarded, the projects could be split and reprioritised accordingly. The structure of the Stakeholder and Engagement Plan was designed in stages so plans could evolve as the full picture emerged.
In order to drive plans and decision making along swiftly, an extraordinary meeting of Towns Fund Board was requested should news of the funding arrive earlier than the next scheduled meeting on 29 January 2021.
It was reported that a Business Champions Meeting was being held on 6 December 2020 with a key set of stakeholders who may wish to know about the Stakeholder and Engagement Plans; Fiona Woolston offered to attend if that would be helpful.
It was noted that partners needed to be mindful of perceptions should some City areas lose out because of some projects being reprioritised and how to manage expectations until plans were crystallised. It was queried whether Wednesfield / areas of perceived neglect could be ringfenced.
It was also noted that it was important that the projects ensured visibility and showcased the City’s potential to prospective investors.
A number of queries were raised around when to inform ward members of the progress of projects and it was advised that this would be communicated as soon as it was known what funding was available and which projects would be taken forward.
In response to a query around the use of the in-house communications team, it was noted that the team were excellent although Copper Consultancy had experience of what Central Government required from an engagement plan.
3. That an extraordinary meeting of Towns Fund Board be arranged should news of the funding arrive earlier than the next scheduled meeting on 29 January 2021.