To consider the annual report from the Economy and Assets Portfolio Holder on the progress made within the portfolio area and their plans for the future.
The Economy and Assets Portfolio Holder presented his annual report on progress made and plans for the future within the portfolio area. He reported that South Lakeland was becoming a recognised economy; where in the past it may have been dismissed as a tourist area only, the District was becoming increasingly well regarded for its technical and technological presence. Local companies were performing very well, with the Council supporting many of them in their development.
The Portfolio Holder set out the Council’s aims regarding both the development of the Morecambe Bay economic area and the Northern Powerhouse. These aims evidenced the modern approach of the Council and showed that the organisation was in a position of confidence, with officers making a real impact in their jobs and with partners.
In drawing his presentation to a close, the Economy and Asset Portfolio Holder reiterated his previous comments urging the Council and the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider working with specialists from Lancaster University at any opportunity.
In response to a query, the Economy and Assets Portfolio Holder explained that the Office for National Statistics had released Gross Value Added figures for each of the Cumbrian districts, which had shown South Lakeland to have the strongest economy in the County. He reiterated that investment in the District’s economy was strong, with job creation on track to meet the Council’s target.
It was queried whether the Council had a role to play in the Eden Project North development which had recently been announced for Morecambe Bay. The Portfolio Holder welcomed the excellent news for Lancaster City Council and its area, and explained that whilst there was no current role for this Council, he was hopeful that South Lakeland would nevertheless benefit in some way from the project.
A Member highlighted the positive impact to the economy which had been experienced following the use of Kirkby Lonsdale as a filming location. It was suggested that this should be something that the Council could promote in the future.
In reference to the Portfolio Holder’s recommendation to work closely with Lancaster University, a Member explained that students had recently produced a 60 page report for the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership setting out the ways in which the Canal could be rebranded. This had been an excellent piece of work, and was significantly less expensive than using a private consultant.
Further information was sought on the potential for funding from the European Regional Development Fund, and whether this could be used not only to improve flood defences but also to further economic ambitions. The Economy and Assets Portfolio Holder explained that this funding was being sought primarily for the Mintsfeet Industrial Estate in Kendal, and that this was a separate bid specifically with an economic aspect in mind. The Council was also in discussions with the Chamber of Commerce and the Environment Agency with a view to organising a seminar for businesses in the area to help improve flood resistance at industrial premises. He highlighted that benefits from the improvements to Mintsfeet would also be felt by the nearby housing estate.
A Member provided an update on the economic situation in Ulverston, explaining that there were locations within the town which were ready for development as business sites and stated that the Portfolio Holder’s assistance in progressing these would be welcomed. The continued success of the District’s tourist economy was welcomed, with the Member highlighting the large number of visitors who would be attending the Manjushri Mahayana Buddhist Centre in the coming months. Reference was also made to the success of job fairs held in Ulverston which had seen many attendees find work, training or other opportunities.
In response to a question regarding the changes to the cash collection arrangements, the Economy and Assets Portfolio Holder provided reassurance regarding their security and effectiveness.
RESOLVED – That the report be noted.