(Report of the Leader of the Council)
The Chair invited the Leader of the Council to introduce the Future High Street Fund: Terms of Reference Report to the Committee. The Leader of the Council provided an overview to the Committee on the extent to which the council could influence town centre activities and recent trends on high streets and how town centres were used. He further drew the attention of the Committee to the appointment of two external executives to the Programme Board; the Chief Executive of South Staffordshire College and the Chief Executive of the Stoke-On-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
The Leader of the Council introduced the Assistant Director, Growth & Regeneration and the Project Officer to the meeting. The Assistant Director highlighted to the Committee that the aim of this report was to set out clear governance arrangements in terms of decision making and the application of financial guidance, which allowed decisions to be taken quickly and at the appropriate level of seniority within the authority. Following consideration by this Committee this report was due to be considered by Cabinet at its meeting on 17th June 2021 with recommendations to approve the report and to approve an indicative programme timeline in accordance with the terms of reference.
The Assistant Director provided an overview of progress to date on the project including commencement of enabling activity and the set up of the programme office as well an overview of the recruitment to posts and the arrangements put in place to continue with the current interim Programme Manager for a fixed three year period. The Assistant Director highlighted to the Committee the importance of moving the project forward consistently over the full period in order to deliver the requirements in accordance with the programme required and that the proposed governance structure aimed to deliver that, and the Programme Board had been meeting regularly since February 2021.
The Assistant Director reported that whilst the funding from the Future High Street Fund had to be spent by April 2024, work could continue beyond that date provided that the funding was from partner organisations.
In terms of reporting arrangements, both Cabinet and this Committee would be updated quarterly on progress against delivery of the programme.
The Committee sought and received clarification in the following areas:
· Programme – the extent to which the indicative programme included any contingencies where it was reported that the programme remained indicative and a working document, and whilst it had been prepared on a fairly conservative basis, it was likely to change over time. Assurances were sought and received that once the programme was fixed, that progress would be reported to this Committee against that baselined plan.
· Status of College funding – clarification was sought on the status of the College funding application where it was reported that whilst a round 1 bid had been made, as yet the College had not heard back from the Department for Education, which had been expected by this date. Further clarification was requested on how far the council was prepared to progress without confirmation of this funding stream to the College being received and whether there was any plan B. It was reported that the council’s programme to deliver the projects required activity to commence prior to September, which was when the College expected to receive a final decision from the Department for Education on its bid, and that accordingly the council was already working closely and collaboratively with the College to procure the multidisciplinary team to support the project.
· Reporting on progress – confirmation was provided that reporting to this Committee would be planned to come prior to reporting being made to Cabinet such that this Committee could review and feed its considerations into Cabinet. It was further confirmed that where possible the project would be flexible in providing the Committee with areas of information which this Committee specifically requested.
· Skills - clarification was sought on how the council could feed into ensuring that the wider skills agenda was supported by the project including through the delivery of appropriate courses and skills from the College. The Leader confirmed that the council had an interest in ensuring that the enterprise centre and the college were linked. It was considered that engagement with the principal of the College in this regard would be beneficial and that this could be though inviting the Principal to attend either this Committee or one of the other Scrutiny Committees.
· Archeology – it was reported that the county archaeologist would be involved as part of the planning process, and that accordingly this area was a risk recorded in the risk register for the project.
· The Report be noted; and
· This Committee’s comments be reported to Cabinet.
(Moved by Councillor S Goodall and seconded by Councillor Dr S Peaple)