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Cabinet news releases - September 2016

Published: 19/09/2016

A Growth Vision and Strategy for the Economy of North Wales The North Wales region has been invited by the UK Government to make a Bid to deliver accelerated economic growth through investment in infrastructure, and skills and through the creation of new freedoms and flexibilities for the region, providing more local control. This means the region is being recognised in its own right. The Vision, which gives a clear direction for future economic planning is being presented to all six councils in North Wales for adoption and is supported by the leaders and chief executives of all six unitary authorities within the region, the North Wales Business Council, Bangor University, Glyndwr University, Coleg Cambria, Grwp Llandrillo – Menai (College) and the North Wales Economic Ambition Board. It has been made possible by collaboration and partnership working with a strong private sector involvement. It sets out the aims and ambitions for “a confident, cohesive region with sustainable economic growth, capitalising on the success of high value economic sectors and its connection to the economies of the Northern Powerhouse and Ireland.” The region views a Growth Bid as one of the vehicles to secure investment to achieve the aims and aspirations of the Vision from now until 2035. Alongside the Growth Vision and Strategy, the North Wales and Mersey Dee rail task force has established to co-ordinate action and reduce institutional complexity in this unique cross border area. It provides a single approach to delivery in an area of five Enterprise Zones, eight Local Authorities, two national governments and a vibrant and varied private sector. Partners are aligned to recognise one economic area and one unified transport network to serve it. Investment in rail improvement has the potential to transform the economy and allow our workforce to better access opportunities both inside and outside the region. The prospectus has been submitted to the UK and Welsh Government and work is underway to take forward the development of early priorities. The Leader of Flintshire County Council, Councillor Aaron Shotton, said: “North Wales is a united region with a strong sense of identity and the Vision sets out a clear ambition for the region for infrastructure development, skills and employment, and business growth which, if successful, could see the value of the North Wales economy increase from £12.8 billion in 2015 to £20 billion by 2035 and generate an additional 120,000 new employment opportunities. “Flintshire County Council will also ensure that any Growth Bid is closely connected with the immediate North West of England as this Vision is made possible by strong private sector involvement and builds on the work of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board and, cross-border, with the Mersey Dee Alliance and the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership.” Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve the “Growth Vision for the Economy of North Wales” as the basis for negotiation with the UK and Welsh Governments over a Growth Bid for the region when it next meets on 20 September. It will also be asked to support and endorse the prospectus for Rail Improvement “Growth Track 360”. Council Fund Revenue Budget Report Flintshire County Council adopted a Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) which set out the need for the prioritisation of key local government services by Welsh Government, such as education and social care, if the Council is to find solutions to budget challenge it faces Flintshire is a low funded council under the local government funding formula and was faced with an initial funding ‘gap’ in the region of £20M in a single year. There are limited options to find solutions without Welsh Government offering some reprieve from the scale of national funding reductions. The forecast “gap” for 2017/18 between income and expenditure was reported as £14.4M in July 2016. The Council has developed a set of budget plans across its services which would give a total saving of around £6M. This is on top of the significant efficiency savings the Council has made over a number of years whilst protecting local services and jobs. At its meeting on 20 September, Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to recommend this first stage of budget proposals for 2017/18. Work is ongoing around options to make further savings in corporate costs and in national negotiations around the Welsh Government budget which will be announced in late October. The Leader of Flintshire County Council, Councillor Aaron Shotton, said: “We are continuing to work hard to plan and deliver much-needed, essential council services in a relentless and unprecedented period of financial austerity in the public sector in Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom. “Each council service area is subject to extensive and ongoing reviews that consider the efficiency of each service, value for money, and the ability of each service to respond to cost pressures. This work shows that the Council has limited efficiency options without having to reduce services to unacceptable levels of service provision. “Flintshire, as a low funded council, is particularly exposed to the impacts of significant annual budget reductions and has limited options to find solutions without Welsh Government offering some reprieve. The risks posed to Council services have been set out clearly to Ministers and civil servants, the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), and other national bodies including the Wales Audit Office. “The Council is also actively involved in national discussions over the Welsh Government Budget for 2017/18 including the Local Government Settlement, both as part of the WLGA and as an individual council.” “There are currently high expectations and positive signs that the Welsh Government will adopt a sustainable strategy for the financing of the public sector to ease the burdens on local authorities such as ours.” Cabinet considers Welsh Language Standards Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to agree the Welsh Language Monitoring Report and also note the progress being made to implement the Welsh Language Standards (“the Standards”) when it next meets on 20 September. The overall aim of the Standards is to continue and develop the work of previous Welsh Language Schemes. It aims to increase the number of people using Welsh language services and offers guidance to organisations on what they need to meet this aim. The majority of the Standards are consistent with the commitments set out in the Council’s previous Welsh Language Scheme and the Council continues to improve in many areas such as: · the implementation of the ‘More than Just Words Framework’ in Social Services putting them in an excellent position to meet WLS and deliver bilingual services · the Welsh in Education Strategic Plan which is being updated to meet the increasing the number of pupils learning through Welsh and over time, the pool of potential Welsh speaking employees. · an increased number of employees are attending Welsh language training compared to 2014/15. Flintshire County Council Cabinet Member for Corporate Management, Councillor Billy Mullin, said: “Flintshire County Council is committed to working with the Welsh Language Commissioner to ensure that the new standards can be practically achieved, recognising the Council’s geography and demographic breakdown. “The Council is also developing a five year Welsh Language Promotion Strategy and a policy for Welsh in the workplace to ensure that we raise the profile of the Welsh language to help increase the number of Welsh speakers in the county and for opportunities for employees to use Welsh at work.”