A great place to do business in the United Kingdom

Are we achieving our targets?

Green – 10; Amber – 1; Red – 3; M – 0

Are we getting better?

6

Improved performance

2

Stayed the same

6

Requires improvement

0

Further information is needed or the latest measure in unavailable

Analysis and issues

The table above shows that two Performance Indicators are exceeding their targets. Two measures, regarding the rate of economic activity and the rate of unemployment are Green against their year-end targets of 74% and 3.7% respectively. Notably, the rate of employment and the rate of unemployment have both risen in the last quarter. The population used to calculate the employment rate has stayed broadly the same since 2017-18, while the number of unemployment and employed people has increased. Therefore analysis from the Insight and Intelligence service indicates that the percentage of the population that are economically inactive is shrinking which allows both the employment rate and unemployment rate to go up as those inactive people either become unemployed or employed. However, this should be caveated, as these measures involve significant confidence intervals, and are calculating using different methodologies within the annual population survey.

Two performance measures have turned from green to red at year-end, relating to the number of business start-ups and the proportion of new businesses surviving beyond two years. It should be noted that these measures both have a two year time lag. In relation to business survival, performance is at 75% compared to the target of 79%, and has experienced a decline from 2017-18’s reported level of 77%. The number of business start-ups reports at 1,705 compared to the target of 1,900 and prior performance in 2017-18 of 1,935. An action plan is available in Appendix Four to provide additional information regarding the performance of these indicators.

The fall seen in the number of business births between 2016 and 2017 is not limited to Cheshire West and Chester. Uncertainty in the business environment has affected the number of business start-ups across the country, with England also seeing a fall in the number of business births between 2016 and 2017. The decline in performance is therefore not restricted to Cheshire West and Chester, this suggests that the reasons for the fall in business births is linked to a general lack of confidence nationally. Although this target measure is provided for Chester West and Chester, there is wide recognition that the key influences on performance are predominantly at the National level, this is reinforced when the Council compares performance against the national picture.

Wider Performance Indicators

Performance on wider performance indicators is positive overall. Of 10 measures, 7 are Green, one is in Measurement and two are Red. Examples of Green indicators include the proportion of commercial floor space occupied by Council and partner schemes (Northgate, Baron’s Quay, Winsford Industrial, Ellesmere Port Enterprise Zone, City Place), which currently stands at 90% against the target of 67%. The number of businesses supported by the economic growth service has also significantly outperformed the full year target at year-end, at 794 against a target of 480. An example of a red measure is the proportion of businesses which receive a food hygiene rating of 5 at initial inspection, which has declined from 66.3% at the mid-year to to 64.3% at year-end, against the target of 70%.

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A great place to do business in the United Kingdom

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Analysis and issues

The key highlights from across these of progress in 2018-19 include:

  • Regulatory Services have a range of value added regulation and compliance services including Primary Authority, GET 5 (Food Safety & Standards), Approved Licensed Vehicle testing Stations (Taxi/Private Hire), Hygiene Audits (Schools), Mediation (on behalf of Registered Social Landlords), Alternative fixed penalty notices (Urination public places), Auditing and Pre Auditing Services to UK ISO standards (Environmental Management and Health & Safety), Adhoc advice to businesses and trade associations. All of these services are chargeable based on cost recovery. The service is reviewing the existing value added regulation and compliance products and further promotion opportunities. In addition, Regulatory Services is also exploring new value added regulation products, primarily in the test areas of Food and Health and Safety. This work is organic and on an as available basis as Regulatory Services has diverted resources to implement a new ICT system, which is intended to release capacity to deliver the above chargeable products and facilitate the online promotion, booking and payments.
  • Winsford Masterplan: The Winsford Industrial estate is meeting its targets. An unconditional sale was agreed with tiger trailers on the land they will develop. Tiger Trailers has also secured planning permission for a new 125,000 sq.ft. unit. Planning approval has been granted for the wider site and the LEP have given their approval for the Full Business Case. Contractor has been appointed and pre commencement works are underway. Start on site is forecast for May 2019. Consultants Montagu Evans have been appointed to develop the Town Centre Masterplan and have so far established a draft phased investment strategy. Engagement activities need to be undertaken and are programmed for May 2019. A Future high street fund bid has been submitted.
  • Workspace units at Winsford and Northwich are completed and have achieved Excellent status in terms of sustainability under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), and are now available for occupancy. The Chester units are expected to be completed in Early April, and there there are a number of tenants in occupation at Winsford, including Smart Rail. FEL Valves are on site in Northwich. A number of other businesses have expressed interest and are holding discussions with our Property Team.
  • The North Wales and Mersey Dee Skills and Innovation Symposium was held September 2018 and was well supported by speakers and delegates from private and public sector and academia from both sides of the border. The cross border skills group will meet in April/May 2019 to consider the outcomes of the Skills Symposium and consider priorities for the Mersey Dee Investment and Delivery Programme. The group will consider areas of work related to apprenticeships, career advice, graduate matching programmes, closer working with business and industry, and will be asked to consider inviting the West Cheshire and North Wales and Wirral Chambers to join the group.
  • Work is progressing well to produce the Mersey Dee Investment and Delivery Programme. The Mersey Dee Alliance Board has approved the approach to be taken a final draft is expected to be presented at the July Mersey Dee Alliance Board meeting for approval.
  • To address economic growth more broadly, The cross border North Wales and Mersey Dee Energy Prospectus is also progressing well. The document is being produced, following the successful cross border Energy Summit in April 2018, to support the energy sector as a whole across North Wales, Cheshire, Warrington and Liverpool City Region.
  • Relating to Growth Track 360, there have been successful allocations in Wales & Borders Franchise, business case development is on-going for Growth Track 360 projects, and Chester station project work continues.
  • There is a significant achievement to report regarding Broadband access to rural homes, as this is now being delivered to 97% of these homes.
  • Following the approval at Full Council to approve the next stage of Northgate project, work on developing the business case and design continues through 2019, with a start on site planned for early 2020, with a target of scheme open Spring 2021. The decision to start on site is subject to further Council approval.

Less than 10% of actions in the plan have slipped. An action that has experienced challenges is the delivery of a joint property vehicle across the public sector, which is under review with the Local Enterprise Partnership.

Next Reporting Period

The following are examples of tasks and milestones expected to be completed in 2019-2020:

  • Delivery of Action Plans is on-going in each of the four Regeneration Programme Areas. Progress on delivery is reported and monitored by respective Regeneration Boards.
  • Continued prioritisation of economic activity around transport and skills through Growth Track 360 and Mersey Dee Alliance
  • Ongoing delivery of the actions contained within the refreshed Growth Strategy under the priorities of Enterprise & Business; Infrastructure; Employment & Skills; Enabling Behaviours.
  • Ongoing delivery of phase 2 of the Winsford Masterplan.