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THE deputy leader of Worcester City Council has vowed to go on spending taxpayers’ cash for pro-business schemes – despite criticism the money could be used in better ways.
Councillor Marc Bayliss said the council’s aim to employ more apprentices, engage with private companies and help provide loans to small traders is the right way to help the city.
About £773,000 will be spent on a variety of tactics to boost business during 2013/14, despite having to cut more than £1 million from spending elsewhere over the next two years.
During a fierce debate at a meeting of the performance management and budget scrutiny committee, opposition politicians said they were “struggling” to see evidence of how the cash is helping the economy.
Coun Geoff Williams, from the Labour group, said: “It’s right to engage on issues to do with the local economy, but it is always debatable as to what a smallish district council can do to influence matters.
“If we are going to spend sums like £773,000 we need to demonstrate that it will be value for money, and we need to see clear outcomes from our spending in this area.”
The regeneration and business engagement service’s budget will be slashed by £40,000 in 2013/14, meaning it has been protected from the brunt of the cuts.
The department’s work includes launching a £30,000 project to offer grant incentives for firms taking on apprentices, and a new £180,000 loan scheme for small traders who cannot get bank loans.
Nineteen young people have found work via the apprenticeship scheme since it started in 2011.
It is also preparing a directory of every business in Worcester, which it hopes will become a marketing tool for investors, and has been working on the creation of the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP).
Coun Bayliss said: “Economic development is an important area for this council. Stimulating jobs and growth is fundamental – this is an area where the authority responded to an economic crisis facing the world.”
One firm to benefit from the policy so far is IT firm Dolphin Computer Access, which is based in Blackpole, Worcester, and secured a £1,000 grant in return for employing two apprentices.