This report seeks the approval in principle of Cabinet to the establishment of the WRIF as recommended in the WRIF business case and the further development of the operational arrangements which will be brought back to Cabinet for consideration.
Cabinet Portfolio Holder – Councillor Peter Butlin
Councillor Peter Butlin (Deputy Leader – Finance and Property) set out the rationale behind the report adding that that this initiative could save 4000 jobs and create a further 2200. The scheme has the support of the Local Enterprise Partnership and Chamber of Commerce. It will stimulate the local economy and safeguard the Council Tax base.
Councillor Butlin added that here are three funds. Of these the one with the highest risk is the £10m fund. However, this has been fully stress tested to minimise those risks.
Councillor Izzi Seccombe (Leader of Council and Chair of Cabinet) stressed that the fund had never been more needed. People need to have a good job if they are to thrive.
Councillor Jerry Roodhouse (Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group) emphasised the need to use the power of local authorities to help businesses. He noted the proposal to establish a further member oversight board but stated that consideration will need to be given to how it will be supported. An oversight board, he added would place an extra burden on the Democratic Services Team.
Councillor Keith Kondakor suggested that any oversight board would require a small pot of money to help it operate. It could operate like the Pension Board with officers on it to assist in scrutiny. He asked that the Property and Infrastructure Fund consider site restoration rather than just building in the countryside. Finally, he suggested that the jobs created ought to be accessible to local people.
Councillor Jeff Morgan noted that start up funding in London is five times that of the Midlands. That pattern needs to be broken. He hoped that adequate consideration would be given to supporting areas where GVA is low.
Councillor Heather Timms (Portfolio Holder for Environment and Heritage and Culture) welcomed the report noting the opportunities to support tourism. The City of Culture and Commonwealth Games will be very important to the area she added.
Councillor Helen Adkins (Leader of the Labour Group) commended the briefing recently given to members. She saw the fund as a good opportunity to invest in businesses that relate to climate change and health and wellbeing. In addition, the value of apprenticeships should not be undervalued.
In summing up Councillor Peter Butlin informed Cabinet that further details on governance arrangements will be forthcoming. Training for members involved in oversight will be provided. Land that is redundant will be reused/repurposed. He stated that population growth is driven by economics. People will go to where the work is. There is a desire to see Nuneaton and Bedworth and North Warwickshire grow. The County Council has invested heavily in Nuneaton town centre and this scheme will help it further. Finally, on the issue of apprenticeships, Councillor Butlin stated that a recent report had suggested that investment in these was not as high as it should be. This, he suggested, needs to change.
1. Supports the Business Case at Appendix A to establish the Warwickshire Recovery and Investment Fund.
2. Approves in principle the establishment of a Warwickshire Recovery and Investment Fund (WRIF) and authorises the Strategic Director for Resources to finalise the proposals and the fund allocations and to develop the Year 1 Business Plan based on the principles set out in Section 1.11 of this report for further consideration by Cabinet.
3. Supports the proposed WRIF governance arrangements and approves the establishment of a Member Oversight Group and an Officer Investment Panel as more fully described in Section 7 of this report.
4. Notes that a further report will be brought back to Cabinet to approve the final arrangements, including the 2021-22 Business Plan and to ask Cabinet to consider making the recommendations to Council in respect of the changes considered necessary to the Treasury Management Strategy and the Investment Strategy and to add the WRIF loan facility to the capital programme