The Council’s 2016 Strategic Review recommended that the council’s Economic Development Strategy should be updated to ensure it reflected the new realities of the changing funding climate and set a clear framework for existing and future projects with alignment to all council strategies.
The draft Economic Development Strategy is the result of engagement with key stakeholders and partners to produce a strategic vision for the borough.
That the Executive endorses the proposed Strategy’s vision, six themes and corresponding targets, and recommends it to Council for adoption.
35.1 Cllrs Seaborne, Gray and Hyman had registered to speak on this item. First, the Leader invited Cllr David Beaman, Chairman of the Value for Money and Customer Service Overview & Scrutiny Committee to make a statement on behalf of the Committee, that had undertaken thorough scrutiny of the draft Strategy.
35.2 Cllr Beaman advised that as he had only recently taken over as the Chairman of the Committee, he would be reading a statement from Cllr Stephen Mulliner who had led the Committee’s work on the Economic Development Strategy.
“The first draft of the Economic Development Strategy (EDS) was published in June 2018. Many Councillors expressed significant reservations about both the approach and the content of the document. The principal criticisms related to its lack of realism about the capacity of WBC to deliver an economic vision for the borough and the lack of clear, measurable deliverables in the Action Plan.
The comments led to the holding of a workshop with councillors, officers and Atkins, the advising consultants, on 13 August 2018. This was a frank and useful meeting which led to some significant revisions. The revised EDS was considered at the VfM & CS O&S meeting on 10 September 2018 where the improvement was noted and endorsed but with the decision that a small Task & Finish Group should be established to provide final comments in the following week. This was welcomed by Cllr. Edwards, the Portfolio Holder for Economic and Community Development. Cllrs. Mulliner and Seaborne met with Catherine Knight on 13 September 2018 and provided a final round of comments designed to ensure that the EDS made realistic statements about WBC’s capacity and role in influencing economic change and to address the difficulties in applying SMART methodology to the Action Plan constituents.
The revised EDS represents a considerable improvement over the previous versions. The language is tighter and grammatical. The revised Foreword on pages 3 and 4 and the Background and Purpose on pages 10 and 11 now present a measured and realistic statement about what WBC can and cannot do. Perhaps the key words are on page 11 at the start of the Purpose section, namely:
“The Economic Development Strategy recognises that the Council is not able to deliver the Economic Development Vision on its own. With the exception of its role as a local planning authority, a borough or district council is not designed, equipped or financed to act as a direct major stimulant to the local economy. However, the Council is well placed and equipped to work in partnership with other economic stakeholders which can exercise more direct influence by investing in the local economy, safeguarding existing jobs and creating new employment opportunities.”
The Committee recognises that the Action Plan is intended to be a live document which will be amended over time in the light of changing circumstances. It also recognises the difficulty in devising actions that are genuinely SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). It looks forward to working with officers to ... view the full minutes text for item 35