[To receive the Towns Fund Project and Funding Proposals for approval.]
Simon Marks, City Executive - Arcadis provided a verbal update on the Towns Fund Projects and Funding Proposal. As reported earlier in the meeting, the proposals had been agreed upon by Board members following completion of the MHCLG Toolkit exercise. It was thought that the approach had been balanced, sensible and impartial.
A breakdown of the projects was provided and it was reported that two projects – Brewers Yard and Wolves@Work – had received 100% of their allocation ask; the Bilston and Wednesfield projects would be receiving 55% each of the amount originally requested, the Horseley Fields Project was to received funding from another source (West Midlands Combined Authority funding) whilst the remaining projects had been allocated 50% of their ask.
It was acknowledged that maintaining momentum with all projects was key, although the projects considered as ‘whole’ would in all likelihood be moving through to business case more swiftly.
The projects with 50 - 55% of the ask may need extra work to realise, however there was scope to take advantage of other funding opportunities should they arise over the five-year delivery window. It was recommended that a procedure be established to ensure the next phase or module in a position to commence could be identified as soon as more funding became available.
It was suggested that projects be divided into self-contained modules to make it easier to allocate in this way. It was agreed that this would be a sensible approach for projects that lent themselves to being divided, however it was noted that some projects could only be delivered as a whole or not at all therefore this was not suitable for all of them.
In response to a query around why Brewers Yard had stood out to receive 100% of its allocation, it was noted that it had not been considered feasible to subdivide the project. In addition, an allocation of at least £5 million had been required in order to attract match funding to realise the amount required to deliver; allocating less would not result in the funding required to fully deliver the project. It was also acknowledged that the Brewers Yard project would cover a large footprint within Wolverhampton which would be key to regeneration and economic benefit for the City. It was also thought that the City’s positive reputation would be upheld if large projects such as this were delivered successfully.
The point was raised that it would be beneficial to monitor progress and only continue to fund the projects which were progressing well to avoid funding failing projects.
Concerns were raised around the risk factor for the projects which were only receiving partial funding. Assurances were offered that there was often an element of risk and that, over the five-year delivery period, it was highly likely that alternative funding mechanisms may become available.
In addition, a funding allocation system was discussed, and this would need to be able to be re-evaluated and reallocate underspends or account for additional funding. It was noted that any funding bids or lobbying for funding would be supported by MPs. It was reiterated that some projects could be delivered in the aforementioned phased approach to ensure there was some progression.