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31.08.16

More Growth Deal funding needed to fill ‘gaps’ in current projects - WYCA

Projects to foster growth in the Leeds City Region have met with challenges so far, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) has admitted as it prepares a bid for more funding.

A report prepared for a meeting of the WYCA investment committee says that the £109m from the government’s Local Growth Fund the authority has applied for is needed to address “gaps in [the] existing Growth Deal allocation that cannot be addressed through current Growth Deal flexibilities”.

The WYCA has started a number of projects using existing Growth Deal funding, which it says have experienced delays because they have proven more difficult to deliver than expected.

“Government is aware that the uneven profile of our Growth Deal allocation has presented significant challenges to effective management of this complex portfolio of capital schemes, even allowing for the extensive flexibilities accorded to us,” the report said.

Funding for priority 1 of the Growth Deal, ‘Growing business’, is mostly on target, with £39.62m spending forecast against a £39.6m spending target.

However, the report says that additional funding is needed for the £18m Business Growth Programme to ensure that it can “continue to support firms that are creating employment”.

Priority 2, ‘Skilled people, better jobs’, has involved redevelopments at Shipley College and Leeds City College.

The work at Shipley College is now completed and most other projects are contracted and operational. The WYCA says that the current allocation of £62m in 2016-17 followed by just £5m in 2017-18 for Priority 2 has proven “very difficult to deliver” because of the large-scale projects involved and more funding is needed.

Priority 3, ‘Clean energy and environmental resilience’, has the biggest funding shortfall, with a forecast total spend of £26.76m against an allocation of £12.84m. It includes the Resource Efficiency Fund, whose start date has been delayed from April 2016 to January 2017 and which is dependent on match funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority has also raised concerns about the impact of a loss of EU funding on its planned unemployment programmes.

Priority 4a, ‘Infrastructure for growth – housing & regeneration’ is forecasting a £39.39m spend against a £35.87m allocation.

The report says that the £8.68m of funding currently in the pipeline, for housing developments in cities including Leeds, Wakefield and York, “has to be seen as a risk until projects are contracted and work has commenced”.

Overall, the report says that the Growth Deal, which has targets of creating 10,000 jobs and 2,000 new homes, is on target to deliver 5,447 jobs and 725 houses, although this does not include pipeline projects.

It adds that one of the reasons for the problems has been difficulties for the team tasked with delivering it. “It has undoubtedly been a challenge for the LEP and the Combined Authority to establish, effectively from scratch, a team of sufficient size and experience to deliver the City Region’s Growth Deal programme,” the report notes.

Another report says that the WYCA has now commissioned consultants Arcadis “to assess the capability and capacity of WYCA and its partners to deliver the Growth Deal”.

The report says that the new Growth Deal funding is needed “to make the City Region’s existing Growth Deal allocation more deliverable over the period to 2021 and create a financially sustainable LEP that can continue to invest in the City Region beyond 2021”.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority leaders recently called for the government to abandon mandatory elected mayors for combined authorities, saying they had “at some times been a distraction.”

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