St Helens Council leader hails plans to bolster workforce in City Region

St Helens Council leader Derek Long
St Helens Council leader Derek Long

A move by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to invest up to £7 million to bolster its workforce has been hailed as a “vital initiative” by the leader of St Helens Council.

On Friday, council chiefs approved a series of actions aimed at addressing “capacity constraints” within the combined authority to enable it to effectively bid for new funding opportunities.

A combined authority report says the additional funding it has received and is likely to receive is in the form of capital, which will allow it to commit to new commissions and investments.

However, these funds will provide “limited help” in assembling internal teams to prepare those commissions and investments, the report says.

On Friday it was agreed that £2.5 million of the £6.4 million Single Investment Fund (SIF) pre-development funding approved last October will be allocated towards increased delivery resource.

The combined authority will return for a further £2 million from the fund in 2020-21.

Members also agreed to allocate up to 100 per cent of the £2.5 million available annually under the Single Transport Budget to the development of SIF transport interventions.

Lastly, it was agreed to include from the pre-development funding, additional capacity in the six local authorities within the city region to develop economic development projects and act as local counterparts for SIF funding.

Coun Joe Anderson, mayor of Liverpool, said the move was “crucial”.

St Helens Council leader Derek Long also welcomed the strategy.

He said St Helens Council has lost 71 per cent of its core budget in the past decade, making the delivery of existing projects “hard work”.

Coun Long said: “When we’re dealing with huge systemic problems that we’ve inherited such as the decline of high streets and the need for better capital infrastructure for our transport, etcetera, we need sophisticated officers who have a level of expertise, which does not sit around in a local authority just waiting for the opportunity to do a project.

“Therefore, you have to bring these people in order to lay the ground, lay the foundation so we can make quality bids, both to the city region and also crucially nationally to all these other pots which are suddenly going to appear in the post-Brexit world.

“So, this is a vital initiative and I wholeheartedly endorse it.”

Metro mayor Steve Rotheram said the six local authorities in the city region have been “hollowed out” by the Conservative government.

He said the new strategy will make the combined authority better placed to bid to the government’s Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU structural funding after Brexit.

The government has pledged to set up the fund to “reduce inequalities between communities”.

“Our six local authorities have been hollowed out,” Mr Rotheram said.

“They’ve been hit the hardest in the whole country. And that’s not me saying it, we’ve got our statistical evidence that backs up that contention.

“The other thing is, what this capacity provides to us is the ability in a potential post-Brexit world – and we don’t know when that might be and hopefully it doesn’t happen but if it does happen – we’ll be bidding in to the shared prosperity funding.

“And despite the mechanism and formula yet to be agreed by government, we need to be in the best position to have projects so that we can have a chunk of that money, being the area that’s been detrimentally impacted by this current government.

“Perhaps we might be able to get a larger share of the pot in the future.”