City of Wolverhampton Council is taking action to protect vital regeneration projects from the damaging and unprecedented financial impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic which has hit schemes across the world, nationally and regionally.
The pandemic, which hit the city hard, has had a significant impact on jobs and caused economic challenges. But the council remains ambitious and is keen to kick-start recovery by safeguarding major capital investment projects that will bring thousands of jobs and millions in investment to the city.
Capital projects, such as the Interchange, i9, Civic Halls and new WV Living homes, were essential to the city’s regeneration strategy, wider transformation and economic well-being before covid-19 struck and are even more important now.
City centre developments are particularly crucial to re-inventing and re-imagining a vibrant core for the future. Prior to the pandemic, they were on track and on budget.
Cabinet Resources will consider a report on Tuesday (June 23) proposing an emergency financial support package to ensure major projects get back on track and are delivered in a timely and cost-effective way. Funded through external borrowing, the covid contingency money will bolster major capital projects in the city, while council leaders continue to lobby Government for further funding to cover cost pressures.
The measures are being proposed now as it is likely to be some time before the full economic damage caused by the impact of Covid-19 is known. This will depend upon how quickly lockdown restrictions are lifted, the impact on contractors and inflationary pressures.
Covid 19 cost pressures are likely to have an impact across the council’s entire capital programme, including projects that are planned for future years. Individual business cases are being assessed to determine the ongoing impact but council leaders are determined to maintain momentum.
Alongside this emergency measure, the council is continuing to provide data to government to evidence the total financial impact of Covid-19 on the council and make the case for greater funding support.
City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Ian Brookfield said:
"The impact of Covid-19 has been unimaginable and unprecedented. Before the pandemic struck, major regeneration projects were making good progress. But, like many other cities and towns up and down the land, covid costs are going to bite us – that’s a certainty.
“We have no alternative. We need the local jobs and muti-million-pound investment these schemes will bring – now more than ever. And that is why we are proposing these prudent financial contingency measures, alongside lobbying Government to step up and help us ‘level’ up.
“This city has a range of fantastic assets, great connectivity, strong partnerships and fantastic people – all of which have helped us to weather the storm and maintain strong interest from investors and developers. We need to be confident and ambitious about our local strategy for growth whilst pressing the Government for investment to help deliver our ambitious local plans.
“Extra covid costs on our big, vital regeneration projects shouldn't fall on the shoulders of local taxpayers.
"This is an event nobody could have foreseen and while we are being prudent in covering these unforeseen costs, we are going to be asking Government for help with all our schemes.
"I'm sure the Government hasn't got a bottomless pit of cash but maybe we are talking about a Marshall Plan type of borrowing where the country pays it back over 50 or 100 years because that's where we're at.”