Forest Labour Party cautiously welcomed the promised investment of £17.5million into Worcestershire as part of the Government’s ‘Midland’s Engine’ initiative.
However, it is quite clear that the bulk won’t be seen in one of the poorest parts of Worcestershire – Wyre Forest.
Indeed, some if not most of this ‘investment’ requires matched funding. For instance, in actually making the Pershore Link a reality, the onus is on County Hall to find the extra £5 million to deliver it.
That is the same cash strapped County Hall that has cut social care to the bone helping cause an NHS bed pressure crisis, and which has been blasted by OFSTED over Children’s Services failings. All of this down to Tory Central Govt funding cuts to local authorities, none of which any of the Tory council’s have resisted.
The Churchfields Urban Village plan which is part of this ‘Midland’s Engine’ investment has some outstanding questions from Labour. The WFDC Churchfield master plan indicated some £4.2million in costs. So, it would be good to know how much of this is in the pot already (borrowed or raised and if local taxpayers are funding it and hence paying twice over) and how much of this figure is promised in this Midland’s Engine ‘investment’ and what it is dependant upon?
Stephen Brown said “Labour believes that the real story should be about how Wyre Forest is NOT signed up to the West Mids Combined Authority to help generate jobs and investment and which is seeing some £392 million investment as part of this ‘Midland’s Engine’ funding today. Why? Probably because Tory WFDC don’t want to have their comfort zone challenged by neighbouring (mostly Labour) councils and with whom they’d actually have to have a constructive dialogue with; such dialogue being something of an anathema to our local Tory Party”.
Labour witnessed the recent farcical Tory led District Council planning committee decision to refuse planning permission for a courier business to operate out of Easter Park. An application for change of use which Labour supported. Labour also called for big investment in affordable housing and start-up business units as part of the WFDC 2017 budget plans. Unfortunately, this is not something the Tories have signed up to. Just what economic future do they want for the district?
Stephen Brown went on to say “This money for Wyre Forest will not help Tory Worcestershire play much of a part in the Midland’s Engine when the real power and money is held a few miles up the road in the rest of the West Midlands, and which all Worcestershire local authorities bar Labour controlled Redditch have opted out of. It therefore remains yet another Tory wasted opportunity that Labour would not have missed out on. What we need is a housing and industrial strategy with comprehensive infrastructure improvements to ignite Wyre Forest as a place to live and do business in and which Labour would offer as part of an integrated wider partnership approach for the benefit of the District. Included in this would be better cultural aspirations for the well-being of our citizens”.