Bolton Council has endorsed and adopted a new five year economic strategy as the basis for continued economic development in the borough.
In 2007, the council and its partners published a new community strategy which laid out a 10 year vision for economic growth, including £1bn of investment into the borough and 15,000 new jobs.
Over the following few years, the council secured over £250m of this investment and partners to take forward a number of development schemes including the Bolton One Leisure, Health and Research centre, Deane Road and Topp Way car parks, the Transport Interchange, the Market Place shopping centre, Travelodge Hotel and a number of office developments across the town centre.
However, the economic recession has inevitably had an effect on the pace of development and the amount of job creation in Bolton, with the predicted number of new jobs created up to 2020 now standing at 5,000 to 7,000 and the potential investment and economic growth likely to be limited over the next few years.
So, a new strategy has been developed which reflects the challenges and opportunities facing the borough in the current and foreseeable economic climate.
The new strategy identifies a number of priorities for the council and its partners including developing key employment sites in the town centre, Locoworks and Cutacre; supporting existing and new businesses; developing skills and supporting people into employment.
In terms of key employment sites, Bolton town centre, Locoworks and Cutacre have been identified by a number of Greater Manchester-wide studies as the best sites in the borough to promote economic growth.
The council will continue to promote the town centre as a vibrant mix of uses including retail, culture and leisure, as well as promoting the development of Horwich Loco Works as a mixed use housing and employment site and Cutacre as a manufacturing and distribution site.
Another priority is support for existing and new businesses and the council has agreed to continue to provide support to businesses across the borough, as well as providing targeted help for new start ups.
Developing skills amongst residents is another key priority of this five year strategy and the council has agreed to work closely with providers to match any skills development with employment support; ensure colleges and training providers are better linked with businesses and organisations to respond directly to their requirements and also to work to maintain and grow the current high level of apprenticeships in Bolton.
Finally, supporting people back into work will be a key priority for the council, especially following the rapid changes made by the Government to Welfare to Work and the development of new benefit systems.
The council will continue to work with local employment providers to identify who is recruiting and how best to match their requirements, promote local recruitment through its own planning and procurement processes and continue to use the 'Workshop' facilities in Bolton and Farnworth in the short term to provide support and advice to unemployed people.
Bolton Council’s Executive Member for Development and Regeneration, Councillor Ismail Ibrahim, said: "Over the last few years, Bolton has made substantial progress in terms of job creation, taking forward new developments and securing over £250m of investment into the borough.
“However, due to the recession, we have had to reassess our priorities and develop a new strategy for growth. Whilst our long term ambitions for growth are still valid, this new strategy will focus on a number of key priorities which will assist Bolton's economic development in both the current climate and over the next five years."
The new strategy was put before members of the Executive on Monday, March 28 and they noted the changing context.