Grow the local economy and deliver good jobs with fair wages
Our shared challenge
Our local economy is doing well, with a number of strong businesses, low levels of unemployment and high levels of productivity. Economic output is increasing faster within the borough than it is across either England or the North West and employment levels are currently at a historic high. There are improving transport connections to Manchester, Liverpool, North Wales, the Midlands and London. Local residents also have good skill levels, particularly at graduate level. However, within this positive picture there are individuals and communities who are currently unable to enjoy the same opportunities.
The challenge is to make sure that local people can contribute to and benefit from growth. The median gross weekly wage for west Cheshire residents who work full-time is slightly higher than the national average, but averages hide the fact that two neighbourhoods in west Cheshire are ranked in the 2 per cent most deprived in England.
Transport connections within in the borough have room for improvement, particularly in relation to affordable public transport. Road congestion is significant in some areas, and many rural communities suffer from poor transport connectivity. Improving these and investing in digital infrastructure will allow the economy to benefit from the talents of the whole borough. We also have a duty to support thriving local high streets across all our communities in the face of major changes to the retail sector.
Economic resilience is also an issue for us. Some of our most productive businesses are in sectors such as automotives and chemicals that may be vulnerable to economic shocks, changing consumer preferences, automation and international trade changes. In the short term we are particularly focused on managing the potential impact of Brexit.
What our residents think
Almost three quarters of participants agree with the Council's proposals for this priority, in particular around the Council using its powers to support local business and employment, taking a new approach to skills and employment and revitalising our town centres. Discussions focused on making west Cheshire a more attractive place for business and study, supporting small businesses, improving the cost, frequency and reliability of public transport and supporting young people into employment.
Over two-thirds of participants agreed with suggestions of how local people could play their part, particularly in sharing ideas to contribute to planned regeneration and supporting local businesses. Nine out of ten participants agreed with all the ideas for how businesses could contribute.
Have a small business development strategy... give more contracts and work to businesses local to Cheshire.
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What our partners think
Our partners supported the focus on a local economy that works for everyone. A wide range of local businesses participated in an economic summit where attendees were supportive of overall proposals and put forward a strong demand for continued dialogue and further opportunities to influence plans. Community and voluntary sector representatives were keen to establish a voluntary sector presence in each of the borough's main towns to promote and facilitate opportunities to volunteer and support organisations and groups to match social responsibilities to benefits for local businesses and communities. The importance of the Northgate Development being undertaken in a way which was sympathetic to the historic environment was highlighted, along with the opportunity that the promotion of walking and public transport could have in reducing city centre private car usage and strengthening the city's historic character.
What success will look like
- more people benefitting from improved skills and higher earnings
- West Cheshire being the best place in the UK for rural businesses
- Improved social mobility
- better digital connections and download speeds
- local business growth and investment
- increased productivity.
How the Council will play its part
We need to review all of our local skills, reskilling and employment services to ensure they are focused on tackling the challenges outlined above. The Employers Pledge is key to raising expectations of young people and helping them achieve the skills needed by local employers. The Employers Pledge partnership already supports hundreds of employers to work more closely with schools, colleges and up to 12,000 learners, building aspirations and providing young people with pathways into their chosen careers. This will be supported by the new Accelerate Programme which, working with the Local Enterprise Partnership and the University of Chester, will support employers to identify whole workforce training needs. It will have a particular focus on digital skills through the Digital Skills Partnership who work with business and training providers to enable the current and future workforce to develop the skills they will need to take full advantage of new digital technologies. New approaches will mean working closely with colleges, schools and businesses to identify the skill needs of the future. An example of this could be working with NHS organisations to develop a careers academy concept to explore approaches for careers in care. We want to help businesses realise the potential of apprenticeship funding, including the apprenticeship levy that all large businesses need to pay and will provide advice to businesses on how to deploy the levy, including how to use their unspent levy within their supply chain. We also want to introduce schemes that address any barriers to local people increasing their skills, working hours and earnings.
We will review how we support local businesses to encourage inclusive growth and new and expanding businesses. A digital business portal will be implemented to make it easier for businesses to interact with us. We will also explore how we can support the development of premises to support new businesses. We are interested in developing an investment fund to support progressive local businesses, including co-operatives, which contribute to the borough. We want to introduce a 'business angels' programme which links investors to talented start-ups.
We want to review our approach to purchasing goods and services to enable smaller, local businesses to be in a better position to bid for work, as well as developing specific events and support for local businesses to make the most of procurement opportunities. Our payment terms for local businesses will be halved from 30 days to 15 to help them with their cash flow. We will continue to work with Council-owned companies and other public sector organisations to promote 'community wealth', considering the social value of procurement and retaining more of the money that we spend in the local area and consider career progression for staff. All Council staff and those working in Council-owned companies are paid the Local Living Wage as a minimum and we will encourage others to do the same.
Where appropriate, we will explore ways in which planning agreements can support and encourage developers to hire and buy locally.
High value sectors such as advanced manufacturing, energy, logistics and digital will receive a tailored package of support. A Local Industrial Strategy for Cheshire and Warrington is being developed with business and government. The aim is to provide vital support on training, funding, tax incentives, research and development, and infrastructure to support key sectors, particularly those operating in an uncertain environment. This is especially important in the context of Brexit which has created challenges for many of these sectors. We will also ensure that key areas which are traditionally lower paid, such as health and care, are supported to develop and grow, creating career pathways.
We will continue to make the case for investment in integrated transport infrastructure, as well as specific rail projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, and HS2 to connect economic opportunity across the North and the wider country. We also want to see the delivery of major rail and road improvements into North Wales as part of the Growth Track 360 programme. Another major focus will be on working with Government, businesses and communities to enhance digital infrastructure such as full fibre broadband to premises. This will also form an important part of our sustainability and low emissions agenda.
We need to enhance public and community transport to support growth that benefits more local people, as well as tackling climate change. We will explore how we can improve the connectivity of our towns and villages through local bus services and will review the future model for the Park and Ride service. This may involve new services or targeted financial support to make public transport more affordable for certain groups. We will work with schools to promote bus use by pupils and discourage drop-offs and pick-ups by private vehicle. Local rail services will also be an area of focus and the case for investment will be made in services such as the mid-Cheshire line, the Wrexham-Bidston line, Winsford to Crewe, Winsford to Warrington, and Hooton to Liverpool. We will also seek investment for local road schemes that improve connectivity including the Winsford Southern Bypass, the Western Relief Road, and the A51.
Town centres are the heart of our communities. Due to changes in shopping habits, including increased online shopping, we are seeing a national challenge to the high street. The Council will look to make careful investment in schemes that transform our town centres to support local employment, consider housing opportunities and combine to create places that attract and retain people who want to invest, live, work and play in the borough. We will also monitor our approach on car parking and explore the development of a register of landlords of empty shops. Working with local residents and businesses, we will deliver Northgate Phase One in Chester, providing a new market, cinema and public square. A sustainable plan for the future phases of the development will be developed which meets the needs of the city and borough and responds to the wishes of local people. We will also maximise the use of our heritage and culture assets to support the vibrancy of our borough. We will continue to support the Council's investment in Northwich at Barons Quay and Weaver Square, the implementation of the Ellesmere Port Masterplan and the regeneration of Winsford town centre. We will work with town and parish councils to support vibrant village centres and rural towns.
Around a third of people in west Cheshire live in rural areas and can face specific difficulties around physical and digital connectivity. We will enhance local transport and continue to push for greater broadband and mobile phone coverage in rural areas, trialling new ways of getting communities online. Alongside supporting rural businesses we will implement planning policies that support the rural economy and we will work to secure the long-term future of Cheshire's Sandstone Ridge.
Our approach to housing will be significant in our response to the climate emergency and to making neighbourhoods even better places to live, but it is also essential to attract and retain our future workforce. Housebuilding stimulates local growth through construction. A good supply of homes and a quality rental sector are vital to ensure lower income groups and others have a choice to live in the borough. We will continue to develop policies that increase the numbers of houses built in appropriate places. We will develop a new offer to attract and retain younger professionals along with more affordable options for lower income groups including quality council housing.
We believe that we could move further and faster if Government gave us more powers and funding to support local growth. Working with our neighbouring councils in Cheshire East, Warrington and our Local Enterprise Partnership we will press for a devolution deal similar to the arrangements in Greater Manchester, Liverpool and elsewhere. This will support our regional working across the North West and North Wales and will help us make decisions that benefit local people, particularly in relation to tackling the climate emergency, skills, infrastructure, housing, and business support.
How residents can play their part
Choosing to spend more of your money with local businesses and in your local town centre helps sustain those businesses that you support, as well as encouraging new businesses.
A range of regeneration schemes are planned in various areas, in particular Chester, Northwich, Winsford and Ellesmere Port. We want residents to share their ideas and opinions on these schemes to make them as effective as possible.
A wide range of training and support is available to help you to develop new skills and potentially change career.
How businesses can play a part
We want to strike a new deal with businesses. Alongside the support we've outlined above we want to work with companies across west Cheshire so we can achieve inclusive growth.
By supporting local good causes, reducing their carbon footprints, promoting volunteering and more.
A wider range of companies taking action to support the health and wellbeing of their workforce.
A wider range of companies taking action to support the health and wellbeing of their workforce.
Working with us to tackle shared challenges such as climate change.
Attending, and engaging with, regular business forums
Winsford Whole Place Programme
The Winsford Whole Place Programme is a comprehensive integrated programme which aims to address the social, economic and physical issues in Winsford. It brings a range of related projects together to ensure a co-ordinated impact on the lives of local residents. The programme focuses on physical regeneration of the town centre, improving education and employment opportunities and early intervention and prevention for vulnerable people. It has already seen the creation of the Winsford Integrated Public Services Hub bringing together Jobcentre Plus, the WorkZone, Citizens Advice, ForFutures and Weaver Vale Housing Trust Employment Horizons team in one place for a seamless customer experience. A project to raise young people's aspirations has been expanded to all Winsford schools and is now being adopted in Ellesmere Port whilst work to narrow attainment gaps for disadvantaged pupils has seen significant success.
One project within the programme that has seen significant investment being made is the expansion of Winsford Industrial Estate, the aim of which is to benefit jobseekers, businesses and their customers. The Council and its partner, Public Sector PLC, have received planning permission to deliver 350,000 sq. ft. of new employment floor space, which will create up to 1,500 jobs for people in Winsford and west Cheshire. The roads and facilities at the industrial estate will be greatly enhanced, with plans for a petrol station, pub and a hotel.
The Council has further plans to enhance the offer to small and medium sized businesses by providing best-in-class industrial space which will benefit the local community with sustainable job growth and long-term investment.
Winsford Whole Place
Investing in our priorities
In 2020-21 we are planning to spend £19.3 million in this area, offset by £23.8 million of income such as the rent charged on Council-owned business premises. This will give a surplus of £4.5 million which will be used across the Council to meet the budget challenge. We are also planning to invest £94.6 million of capital into this challenge area over the next four years, £10 million of which would be funded by the Council.
Who needs to be involved to make this happen?
Key services within the Council that contribute to this priority include:
- Business Growth
- Commercial Property
- Employment, Skills and Learning
- Regeneration teams
Supporting plans and strategies
- Constellation HS2 Growth Strategy
- Growthtrack 360
- Local Industrial Strategy
- Local Plan
- Local Transport Plan
- Strategic Economic Plan
- Transport for the North