In a report of the Senior Scrutiny Officer the Board was reminded of arrangements usually made for individual Members of the Executive to attend meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Board to provide updates on their respective work in terms of their aims, aspirations, objectives, priorities and any emerging issues or pressures.
The process was part of the scrutiny arrangements of holding the Executive to account and also provided the opportunity for the Board to identify or highlight any issues of concern or difficulty.
A schedule detailing the proposed attendance for Executive Members to meetings of the Board was outlined at Appendix 1 of the report submitted.
The Chair welcomed Councillor Rooney, Executive Member for Regeneration Economic Development who provided a briefing note on the range of services delivered by the Regeneration directorate which supported the economic well being of Middlesbrough. Within the overall economic climate and reduced service budgets the focus of attention was to maintain the momentum of local regeneration and delivery on schemes that had already commenced.
A range of objectives were being pursued including the need to stimulate the growth of the local economy. Although it was acknowledged that inevitably there were difficulties in this regard there had been many significant developments and infrastructure improvements throughout the Town in recent years which had built on the Town's resilience and retained investment interest. The Board's attention was drawn to investment in facilities such as mima, Centre Square and at Middlehaven which had resulted in much interest and were supporting the growth of local business and the University.
It was reiterated that Middlesbrough was particularly disadvantaged by the loss of additional funds designed to tackle deprivation such as Working Neighbourhoods Fund, Housing Market Renewal Funding and, Housing and Planning Delivery Grant.
New businesses and households were considered to be key to the generation of income to fund service delivery. The need to address the imbalance of housing stock was reiterated in order to lessen the continuing migration of population.
In terms of the budget process an indication was given of the difficulties arising from compromises which had had to be made following the prioritisation of statutory obligations.
Although the general economic environment was considered to be extremely challenging there was evidence that Middlesbrough continued to perform relatively strongly. The Board's attention was drawn to recent private sector job creation in relation to AXA insurance, Hertel, Gobal Marine and the development of the Tees Multimodal Bio-Freight Terminal.
Information was provided on a number of key development schemes including Middlehaven, Gresham, Grove Hill, Prissick, a number of housing developments and the Boho Zone.
The Board sought clarification on a number of areas. In response to Members' concerns regarding the difficulties in attracting new businesses in the immediate future the Executive Member drew Members' attention to improved road infrastructure and the opportunities which existed which were being built upon. Specific reference was made to developments within the Boho Zone the commercial quarter for the Town's digital technology and creative sectors.
Information was also provided on the benefits of opportunity for the Council to drive forward the development of a Centre for Offshore Renewable Energy at Teesside Advanced Manufacturing Park. Such a development would enable a key economic asset to be put in place, creating jobs and supplying chain opportunities for local companies.
Members specifically referred to the need for improving access to and from the Cleveland Centre Shopping Centre, Linthorpe Road with particular regard to an easier approach to Albert Road, Centre Square and mima. It was confirmed that whilst the shopping centre was in private ownership reference was made to ongoing efforts by the Council to secure improvements in this regard.
Reference was made to progress on acquisitions of properties within Gresham and funding from the Government's Clusters of Empty Housing Fund which would be utilised for the House 2 Home project involving 100 vacant properties in the area being brought back into use including a block of 60 properties within the Wentworth Street and Waverley Street.
ORDERED as follows:-
1. That the schedule detailing the attendance of Executive Members to meetings of the Board be approved.
2. That the Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development be thanked for a comprehensive report.