[To provide background information and a presentation to give an overview of external funding available and secured in order to deliver our corporate priorities with a focus on City economy activity.]
Heather Clark, Service Development Manager provided a report to give background and presentation to give the panel and an overview on external funding.
The presentation outlined:
· Attracting external funding
· Achievements: developing a vibrant city; stronger city economy; access to finance
· Approach : Support to access funding; influencing funders; hide the wiring for businesses to access finance to enable growth
· Opportunity: Supporting business, encouraging enterprise and attracting investment; people developing the skills and employability; pipeline development
Cllr Phil Bateman said it is useful to see the bids pipeline development in a simple diagram. The Chair thanked officers for the presentation and invited questions from the panel:
Cllr Martin Waite referred to the recent Cabinet external funding update report and referred to the broader landscape, funding bids from UK and Europe and asked about risks of funding that has been awarded but not yet received by Wolverhampton, potentially being snatched away from the City. Keren Jones, Service Director advised that the European funds are tied in through a process agreed at European level, she advised it is unlikely that any retraction of funding would happen at this stage of the process; therefore planning for the projects arising out of the funding will continue and will be followed through to delivery. She clarified that there is a good pipeline of projects in terms of schemes that we will be able to deliver.
She advised that the Council is watching the local growth fund closely at the moment in terms of the Universal Spending Review and indicated that there are very challenging circumstances ahead, it is likely that Further Education (FE) will be significantly affected. Cllr John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for City Economy advised that there will be mid-year cuts to Adult Education Services (AES) funding from September 2015.
In response to questions relating to green economies such as solar power, the Service Director advised that Cabinet (Resources) Panel agreed a report in April 2015 endorsing the proposal to adopt the EU framework for Smart City and agreement to the approach to driving forward the Smart City agenda, which includes the green economy. She advised that there were three really strong projects underway that had been submitted in the first round.
Cllr Martin Waite welcomed that all the bids are moving forward in a five year programme prior to the referendum on European. The Service Development Manager advised that the normal roll out of funding is contract and three years to spend. She advised that we need to ensure as much funding as possible in this round of bids committed before January 2016. She clarified that the contracts should be complete and projects ready to deliver in January 2016.
Cllr Phil Bateman indicated that one really important element of strong economies is private business and the private sector. He indicated that he had requested information about foreign owned businesses in Wednesfield North and South. He commented that much of the business world grows and invests without public sector intervention, and asked how we are going to attract inward investment alongside attracting external funding particularly in relation to the aerospace industries. The Service Director acknowledged the importance of inwards investment and advised that a future panel meeting will be dedicated to inward investment.
In response to a question about the rebate from EU to UK the panel were advised that the calculations are complex but that put simply the rebate is netted off and that the total payment is the same.
Cllr Bateman questioned whether the Wolverhampton Business Champion meetings were continuing. The Service Director confirmed that was the case and that the new Chair for the Economic Growth Board is also a Business Champion. Cllr Martin Waite asked about skills funding and whether small businesses can bid or if skills training is largely the domain of large organisations. The Service Director advised that in terms of public funding, European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), there is funding available for training providers through the Skills Funding. She confirmed that there are schemes going forward such as skills for growth, employer engagement where businesses will sort bespoke training and apprenticeships, which are still considered the way forward by national government. Cllr John Reynolds advised that there is a need to come up with more innovative ways to deliver apprenticeships, there is an interest from students and need to get business champions involved.
That the panel note the report and presentation relating to the external funding opportunities available and the role of the City of Wolverhampton Council in securing funds to enable the delivery of corporate priorities.