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We’re supporting the Towns Fund bid, which could boost Sandwell by £75m

Three towns in Sandwell are preparing submissions for up to £25m each of government funding through the Towns Fund. Sandwell Business Ambassadors fully back this bid.

In September 2019 the government announced that it would be investing £3.6bn in 101 towns across the UK, including West Bromwich, Smethwick and Rowley Regis. The amount of funding for each town will be different, agreed with government, up to a maximum of £25m per town.

The Towns Fund prospectus was released in November 2019, setting out the purpose, scope and timescales of the scheme. The objective is to drive economic regeneration to deliver long-term growth: to ‘level up’ the towns.

The three main areas of investment will be:
* Urban regeneration
* Building skills and enterprise
* Increasing connectivity.

In Sandwell, because three separate towns are involved, an overarching strategic ‘Super Board’ has been established to coordinate three local boards, each of which will include a wide range of people from community, business, voluntary, public sector and faith organisations.

The Super Board met in February 2020 and is chaired by Jude Thompson, President of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce.

Two of the three local boards are being chaired by a Sandwell Business Ambassador. Chris Hinson (SIPS Education) is leading West Bromwich and Alan Taylor (MiGlass) will head up Smethwick. Adrian Eggington (Black Country Housing Group) will be chairing the Rowley Regis local board. All three local boards have recently held their first virtual meetings.

The aim of each board is to put together a Town Investment Plan which will be submitted to central government to determine the level of funding each town will ultimately receive (in their ‘Town Deal’). Sandwell Council submitted an initial analysis to government in December 2019, outlining the challenges that the three towns are facing. All three Town Investment Plans are scheduled to be submitted at the end of October 2020.

Alan Taylor, who is also chair of Sandwell Business Ambassadors, said the private sector has a vital role to play in ensuring the Town Deals are successful.

“This is an exciting opportunity to make a step change for the area. The government asked that the local board for each Town Deal is led by a representative from the local business community. I’m delighted to lead the board in Smethwick, helping to ensure the investment delivers value for money, creates jobs, and supports businesses through regeneration.

“Recovery from the economic effect of COVID-19 is uppermost in our minds as we look to build for the future.”

Accelerated Funding

In addition to the main funding, the government has announced ‘Accelerated Funding’ to support projects that will make an immediate impact in the 101 towns this financial year. Sandwell’s towns have been offered £750,000 each which can be used to progress projects that enable:

* Improvement to or new parks and green spaces and sustainable transport links
* Improvements to town centres including repurposing empty commercial properties
* Demolition or site remediation where this will have an immediate benefit.

Proposals for projects using this Accelerated Funding need to be submitted by 14 August 2020 and, if approved, the funding needs to be spent by 31 March 2021.

Sandwell Council and the three local boards are currently looking at schemes that could benefit from this injection of money, that are deliverable within the timescale and that meet the objectives previously mentioned. We will keep you posted.

‘Ambitious plans’

Councillor Maria Crompton, Deputy Leader of Sandwell Council said in a Sandwell Council media release: “We have ambitious plans to regenerate our towns and the COVID-19 pandemic increases our sense of urgency. We are continually seeking additional funding to help transform our town centres and improve facilities for our communities.

“The proposals to improve the towns can only be achieved and thrive if the investment is available and we have now been given three chances to convince the government that Sandwell deserves the opportunity to bring them to fruition.

“We are all working extremely hard to make sure that the bids we submit will be a collaboration of local business, local council and local communities – including most importantly the voices of people who live in the three areas.”

To make your voice heard, go to Sandwell Council’s Towns Fund page where you will find links to the relevant contacts in each town. We’ll keep you posted on developments.

Ambassadors

The Ambassadors are a collective of business people in the Sandwell area with the aim of supporting the Sandwell Business Community.

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