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Agenda item

Regional Funding - Local Growth Fund and Investment Pipeline

Report of the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services - Presented by Project Development Team Leader, Regeneration and Local Services.

Minutes:

The Chairman introduced the Project Development Team Leader, Heather Orton who was in attendance to provide the Committee with an update report in relation to regional funding, the Local Growth Fund (LGF) and the investment pipeline (for copy see file of minutes).

 

The Project Development Team Leader reminded Members she had last spoken to the Committee back in February and reiterated the position in terms of LEPs and growth deals for projects that supported economic growth.  She explained that the deals represented a single investment pot approach, being opportunity and competition based.  Members noted that while around £13 billion had been promised nationally, it had been confirmed that there would be no further LGF rounds and that future resources would be via the UKSPF.

 

The Committee noted the NELEP and partners had worked to develop a project pipeline and submitted projects to Government and Members were referred to the 2015-2021 programme as set out at paragraphs 6-10 of the report.  It was noted for Count Durham this included: infrastructure for Forrest Park; NETPark Infrastructure Phase 3; Horden Rail Station; NETPark Explorer; Auckland Castle welcome building and infrastructure works; Durham City Incubator; Jade Business Park; and Integra 61.  Members were given a brief update on each of the projects.

 

The Project Development Team Leader explained that in terms of a County Durham Investment Pipeline the approach taken was to enable the County to be responsive to opportunities.  She added that this could be in terms of: making sure any project proposals were “investment ready”; stimulating market investment; tackling barriers to growth; ensuring strong promotion of the County through and with bodies such as the Department of International Trade, the Northern Powerhouse; NELEP; Transport for the North and other direct Governmental Departments.

 

Councillors noted priorities identified going forward included: Durham City Park; Integra 61; Newton Aycliffe Business Park and Forrest Park; Horden Rail Station; Jade Business Park Enterprise Zone; Durham City Relief Road; NETPark; Auckland Project; and large housing sites.

 

The Chairman thanked the Project Development Team Leader asked the Committee for their comments and questions.

 

Councillor P Sexton asked as regards Table 1 within the report, with underspends set out.  The Project Development Team Leader noted there was a further year to go in this respect and further information would be reported back to Committee in due course.

 

Mrs R Morris noted “investment ready” and added she fully supported this.  She noted that issues related to this included superfast broadband provision across the county and also the need to ensure the skills required in order for businesses to take up new opportunities.  She highlighted the new International Advanced Manufacturing Park for Sunderland and South Tyneside and added that at many meetings with businesses, the first questions would be what broadband speed was available and whether the skilled workers they needed were available.  The Project Development Team Leader noted she was not familiar with the work of Digital Durham, however she would take this point back to colleagues.  She added in terms of investment ready regular meetings with organisations such as Northern Powergrid helped to ensure sites were ready for businesses to move in, for example the infrastructure works carried out at Forrest Park.  Mrs R Morris noted she felt there was a need for a revised Skills Strategy.  It was noted that the current strategy was for 2014-18 and the Officer would find out more in terms of 2019 and beyond.

 

Mrs R Morris added that there was a large number of SMEs and smaller microbusinesses within County Durham and noted that superfast broadband was critical in allowing those businesses to be able to deal nationally and internationally.  The Principal Overview and Scrutiny Officer, Stephen Gwillym noted that during the work of the Retail Support Working Group the issue of broadband had been brought up on several occasions and had been noted.

 

Councillor J Clare noted that Digital Durham ended with Phase Three having been completed.  He noted that while there was no further funding in terms of this scheme, work would be undertaken to explore with Government what successor schemes would look like.

 

Councillor E Adam noted the “more and better jobs” vision of the NELEP, with 100,000 jobs by 2024 and asked how this would be achieved, given County Durham was not successful in terms of LGF Round Three.  The Project Development Team Leader noted the delivery plan for this was the Strategic Economic Plan and that she would share the relevant links to this with Members.  In reference to LGF Round Three she noted that it was effectively one award, being £47 million to the new International Advanced Manufacturing Park, with some smaller allocations alongside linked to skills.  Councillors were reminded of the pipeline as set out at paragraph 13 of the report and priorities were to seek funding and investment.

 

Councillor S Dunn noted that “Durham City Park” sounded like a recreational park similar to Wharton Park in Durham City, not a business centre, and that the International Advanced Manufacturing Park at Sunderland had a more ambitious title.  He added that the proposals to add 6,000 jobs to Durham should be shouted about and given a more inspiring name than “Durham City Park”.  Councillor S Dunn noted an improvement in broadband speeds at some local schools and thanked Digital Durham in helping to enable “those little optional extras”. 

 

Councillor R Crute noted the issue in terms of the name of “Durham City Park” and of any skills gap and commented that the committee could receive further detail via the CDEP.  He added that physical connectivity should not be forgotten, and that transport links were also vital in terms of being able to get skills into the right areas, East to West connectivity, not just North/South.  Councillor R Crute noted that a new Skills Strategy needed to be informed by business in terms of what skills they need, the level of skills and transport links.  He added a performance indicator in the past that had been reported to Members had been in relation to public transport into Durham City by 8.30am.  Councillor R Crute noted this may be an area to revisit, looking at buses, viability and that the CDEP could be asked for an update relating to skills development.

 

Councillor T Henderson wished to expand on Councillor R Crute’s point in relation to transport.  He noted that in his area, Barnard Castle, there was not a direct bus to Durham City, with residents’ travelling by public transport having to travel to Bishop Auckland then on to Durham.  He added that this was a barrier especially to young people, our workforce of tomorrow.  He added that issues in terms of broadband in the Teesdale and Weardale areas meant that working from home in order to mitigate transport issues was not always possible.

 

 

Councillor S Dunn added that affordability was also an issue for young people in terms of transport, noting that within Tyne and Wear, young people could travel for £1 a day, whereas the cost of a bus ticket from Coxhoe to Framwellgate Moor was over £5.  He added that such costs were forcing young people to look to travel by car and he added that young people under the age of 25 needed an affordable bus service, operating at the right times to enable them to get to work.

 

Councillor S Iveson asked how it had been allowed for issues such as transport, broadband provision and skills to appear to be lagging behind what we needed.  Mrs R Morris noted that digital was the way retail and manufacturing was going and added that New College Durham were looking at virtual reality courses. 

She added that there was a need over the next 10-20 years to look to create centres within our rural communities, for example in terms of “agritech” looking to digitise farms to boost productivity.  She gave the example of coding clubs in terms of being a way to help young people that would be demanding a digital culture in their future.

 

Resolved:

 

(i)       That the report be noted.

(ii)      That a progress report in relation to the development of the Local Industrial Strategy be presented to the Economy and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee later in the 2018/19 work programme.

Supporting documents:

 

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