THE leader of Worcester City Council has issued a rallying call to investors - saying he is "optimistic" about the future.

Labour Cllr Adrian Gregson has reflected on his first six months back in charge at the Guildhall, his second spell in the hot seat.

During an interview with the Worcester News, he said:

- Government funding cuts are unfair and risk leaving councils in a "scary" position facing "a number of threats"

- Congestion needs a "holistic approach" and better partnership working with the likes of Worcestershire County Council, schools and even the private sector

- He wants to hear ideas from staff and is prepared to take on board new suggestions

As we first revealed last month almost £2 million is expected to be slashed from spending by 2020/21 at the city council, signalling significant change ahead.

Cllr Gregson said he would not shy away from reform, but insisted the city as a whole was progressing year on year.

"We can't hide away from the fact local government faces a number of threats, but the opportunity is there to move Worcester forward," he said.

"If you look at the investments happening around the city, developments like Cathedral Plaza, and the things the University of Worcester are doing, that's acting as a catalyst.

"We're getting serious investments and what we've got to do is raise the city's profile and make sure we carry on progressing.

"If you look at where Worcester is it's ideally placed between Birmingham and Bristol to tap into the 'Midlands Engine' ."

He said one of the major focuses must be infrastructure but insisted the solution will only come from a host of changes.

"The congestion problem is caused by a whole host of different things and what it needs is a holistic transport strategy, one thing won't solve it," he said.

"Car parking charges, street parking, lorries crossing the city centre, the lorry park, pedestrian zones, buses - it needs a radical approach.

"The county council has the whip hand on it but we can help them."

He called the £1.9 million budget gap by 2020/21 a "guestimated figure" and insisted the hunt for solutions must continue at apace.

"We'll basically have £19 million to spend instead of £21 million so we'll be reviewing the way services are being delivered and officers will come forward with proposals," he said.

"We need to be clear about the projections because this is about budget responsibility, if you say 'we'll worry about it in the future' we will never deal with it."

He called the loss of the main Government grant pot, the Revenue Support Grant, by 2020 "scary" and warned the council may have to "break some eggs" in the future over tough decisions.

But he insisted any calls for Worcestershire to become a unitary authority should be rejected, saying there would be "a massive cost in change" without no clear idea of the long-term savings.

"Worcester City Council is still pretty successful and efficient in the way it does things, it's well placed to help grow the economy," he said.

"To be dissolved into some county authority would dissipate that."

He called the recent development of the City Plan, a new five-year document put together on a cross-party basis with the Conservatives and Greens, a signal to investors to have confidence in Worcester.

It was the first time ever that all parties with seats on the Guildhall had teamed up to create a long-term strategy.

"It was difficult for all of us to start it off but once we sat around a table, we realised the potential was there," he said.

"The driving force for it is that most people will plan on a reasonably long-term basis, if you are a national firm deciding to relocate your business somewhere you don't do that overnight.

"You plan it over time and it helps if you've got confidence in a local authority."

We revealed yesterday how a vote is taking place this Tuesday about scrapping the current cabinet for a committee system.

It took back control of the council in May despite the opposition Conservative group having one more councillor, running a minority administration with Green Party backing.