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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2016-12-02

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

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New companies set to attract investment, business and jobs to Wirral and deliver 'radical reform' to services

WIRRAL Council could create new economic development companies to drive inward investment and regeneration in the borough while making "radical reforms" to how it delivers services to tackle its budget challenge of £132M savings by 2020

The next Wirral Cabinet Meeting, will be presented with a 4 year budget plan which could move many existing services to new organisations and will propose increases in revenue and income targets from Business Rates, Council Tax and fees and charges.

Cllr Phil Davies, Leader of Wirral Council, said:- "In financial terms, the removal of the Revenue Support Grant means the only money available to invest in our borough, and the services residents rely on, will be money we can raise ourselves. Simply put, by 2020, Wirral will be going it alone and must be self sufficient. This act by the Government means Councils like Wirral must make radical reforms to how we deliver services, how we strengthen our economy, support businesses growth and encourage new firms to move here and create jobs."

The creation of a new company charged with attracting new investment and jobs to the borough is being considered alongside Wirral Council's 4 year financial plan.

The company would take responsibility for promoting Wirral nationally and internationally, working with investors and developers, and encouraging businesses to set up or relocate to the borough.

"We have big ambitions for Wirral; downtown Birkenhead, New Brighton, Bromborough Business Park, Hoylake Golf Resort and more; and working with our partners in the Liverpool City Region and throughout the North West, we will make the most of these opportunities... But to be successful, we need to be more commercial in how we engage with investors and developers. We must simplify much of the way Wirral Council does business and we must be on the front foot when it comes to promoting Wirral as the wonderful place to relocate and do business we know it is. Next week Cabinet will discuss proposals to improve our ability to deliver on these opportunities. Following in the footsteps of Liverpool and Manchester's successful economic development promotion over the past decade, our new approach will provide Wirral with the ability to promote itself, attract investors and translate their interest into sustainable new businesses, economic growth and jobs for Wirral residents."  said Cllr Davies.

Cllr Davies continued:- "Of the £132million the Council has to save over this 4 year budget, nearly £90million will be achieved by doing more with what we already have, renegotiating contracts and, perhaps most importantly, growing our income base for the long term. I am also committing our Council to deliver a fundamental redesign of the services we provide by 2020. Achieving change of this scale is complex, and takes time, but across the 4 years of our plan, we will look to make upwards of £40 million of savings by transforming and restructuring our services. Since 2010, we have managed to somehow deal with massive budget reductions while largely protecting front-line services and residents from the worst of the cuts. We've used our reserves, sold assets and asked our staff and partners to do a lot more with a lot less. But for next year and beyond, minor reductions to services, small increases in charges, will no longer get the job done. We need a major, fundamental redesign of how the Council works and how it provides services.  We will create new companies, charitable trusts and social enterprises; better capable of delivering our residents with high quality front line services in a more efficient and commercial way than we can currently provide."

Budget proposals at a glance:-

Improving Efficiency - £38 million

The Council needs to be well organised and efficient, and make progress towards achieving better value for money. Over the next 4 years, the Council is proposing to save £38 million by renegotiating contracts, improving the way money is managed and invested, and getting the best possible value from every pound available.

Redesigning Services - £40 million

A programme to redesign all Council Services including leisure and culture, making sure they meet residents' needs at a reduced cost to the taxpayer, is underway. Detailed consultation with residents on the proposals will be delivered in early 2017.

Generating Income - £56 million

Accepting the Government's offer of a '4 year settlement' brings the requirement to agree an annual Council Tax rise. This, coupled with charging a fair price for 'paid for services' will bring significant new income to the Council. Plans are also being progressed to increase how many new homes are built in the borough. With more than 13,000 approved planning applications already on the books, a big increase in house building will deliver millions in additional revenue.

The Council's Cabinet will consider the proposal to create a new company to drive forward economic growth, alongside the 4 year budget proposal, at its meeting, at 6pm, 8 December 2016.


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Southport Reporter (R) Bourder




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