BARNSLEY Council has responded to the Economy and Skills Scrutiny Commission's report on growing the town's economy, and boosting its employment.
The report centred around whether or not enough was being done to attract new businesses to the area, and support the expansion of existing businesses.
They set out seven points for the council to respond to. These are outlined below.
"It is essential that jobseekers of all ages are encouraged and expected to take a determined approach to accessing employment opportunities, regardless of where they are in the borough. The council and its partners should work with local schools, colleges and Jobcentre Plus to promote positive messages and challenge negative attitudes towards travelling to work."
The council responded to this by saying that they're actively promoting schemes to help people in their journey to work. Their 'Wheels to Work' scheme was highlighted, which offers a scooter on a lease scheme and has operated in the town since 2001.
The 'Better Bus Area Fund' is also something that was discussed. South Yorkshire's local authorities came together with South Yorkshire Passenger Transport (SYPTE) and secured £4.9million of funding. This now supports a free one-month bus pass for those securing employment from the ages of 16 to 24. It's followed by a period of half-price fares, or a free three-month pass for those who are starting an appenticeship.
"It is equally important to ensure the borough has the right transport networks in place to enable young people to get to places of work, both in Barnsley and with employers based just outside our borders. The council and its partners should work closely with local transport providers and the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority to explore all possible ways of achieving this."
The council responded to this by ensuring that specific emphasis will be placed on making sure that local residents are well-connected with key employment centres through public transport.
They're also saying they're to work with transport providers to review existing and identify possible new routes.
"Effective transport links and the fostering of positive attitudes towards commuting to work are important steps in addressing Barnsley's high unemployment rate. However it should be recognised that some people will still require extra support to re-enter the labour market. The council should assess the progress of its planned ‘Future Jobs Fund 2’ programme to ensure it is meeting the targets set out in the 'Economic Strategy' by improving access to private sector jobs through work experience, training and job placements."
The council said that their proposed new programme will have a dedicated manager, and it's to provide voluntary work experience placements for young people. This aims to provide support to make them more employable.
They're also increasing their existing apprenticeship programme. During the apprenticeship period, the council's said they're to source private sector employers who can offer a wider learning experience, whilst still being employed by Barnsley Council.
"Empty property business rates are a significant barrier to Barnsley's future growth. The council and its partners, including the other South Yorkshire districts, should work together to develop a robust case in favour of empty property business rates relief for areas which experience economic difficulty. This could provide firm evidence for local MPs to lobby government for a change to the system."
The council said that empty properties get three months' exemption from the date they become unoccupied, and six months if they're industrial.
They said that if charges are increased or given for a longer period, it could encourage people to leave properties empty as there would be no cost to them. If they don't get any relief, it should encourage them to get tenants. This might reduce rents, they said.
Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities (SIGOMA) are currently discussing wider support for new investors, which could see reductions of corporation tax for new businesses.
"The Leeds and Sheffield regions have the potential to provide significant levels of support for Barnsley's future development. The council needs a clear strategy for how it interacts with both Sheffield and Leeds which should also identify the financial and staffing resources required to maximise Barnsley's share of available funding."
The council responded to this by saying they recognise the benefits of working with these two cities, and cited a recent example: Skills: City Deal.
The resulting investment enabled support for the growth of apprenticeships for the next three years.
"Barnsley College has an excellent reputation for working with businesses keen to employ young and newly qualified staff. Barnsley Development Agency (BDA) should work closely with the college and other partners to ensure as many businesses as possible know how to engage with students, in order to explain what qualifications and experiences are needed to be successful in the local labour market."
The council said that the aforementioned BDA has a close relationship with the college in relation to employer placements for students.
"There is a huge potential for local firms operating in related industries to grow by doing more business with each other. Barnsley Development Agency and other key partners should work together to identify relevant businesses and help develop mutually beneficial opportunities for cooperation, which could in turn help and boost the local economy as a whole."
The council said that a review of activity has been undertaken with businesses in Barnsley. Support shown includes health and safety, quality accreditations and access to finance.
Collaborations with Barnsley-based businesses have also been discussed.
"Growing the economy is a key aim of the council, alongside raising attainment and reducing dependency on the state," stated the council.