Sefton Council has been praised for being critical to Southport’s recent multi-million-pound funding success by the independent chair of the board tasked with making the bid.
Southport Town Deal Board Chair Rob Fletcher said the work of the council and its officers was fundamental to the town eventually receiving £37.5million in funding to help regenerate the area.
This is in addition to the £1million Acceleration Grant which was approved by the Government last year, which has seen £100,000 support the Southport BID scheme to create “a boulevard of lights” along the mile-long Lord Street with £900,000 supporting Sefton Council’s transformation of Southport Market into a new food, drink and event hub.
The comments came during the latest Southport Operational Group meeting after local councillor Greg Myers asked the Fletcher’s Solicitors Chair Rob Fletcher how he viewed the council’s role in the process and its work with the Town Deal Board.
Cllr Myers said: “As well as the two dozen or so members of the board which includes Sefton’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Skills, Cllr Marion Atkinson, the council is also very involved via its officer team and so I was keen to know how the Board Chair characterised its overall contribution.
“He was clear in his response that the bid would not have had the success it did without the huge amount of work put in by Sefton. So much so that he also revealed Southport Town Deal Board had received support from the council that was the envy of other bid teams around the country.”
Writing to the councillor afterwards, Mr Fletcher stressed the result of the bid was because of a massive effort by everyone involved with the Town Deal Board including Southport MP Damien Moore, Sefton Council Chief Executive Dwayne Johnson, Southport BID Chair Susannah Porter, Sefton Council Executive Director Stephen Watson, British Destinations Association Chief Executive Peter Hampson, plus other local business and public sector leaders.
Mr Fletcher then went on to reaffirm the council’s crucial role, commenting:
“However, there is no doubt that the Bid would not have got as far as it did had it not been for the fantastic work put in by the council and its officers.”
Stating that the council team had helped to make his life “very easy indeed”, he also reserved special praise for Sefton Council Executive Director Stephen Watson, explaining:
“Stephen, in particular, put his heart and soul into this project over the last 12 months despite having a ‘day job’ that was made incredibly difficult by the impact of Covid.
“From my discussions with the Chairs of other areas it is clear that the experience I have had is not universal.
“Some authorities it seems, initially, did not want to engage with the Town Deal Board whereas other authorities used the process to fulfil a number of run of the mill council projects.”
Making clear this wasn’t the case locally he cited the widespread consultation which was held by the Board with Sefton Council, with assistance from communications and marketing specialists including Stand Up For Southport, Turleys and DS Emotion who did “a superb job”.
Southport’s projects instead had the potential to be truly transformational for the town, he explained:
“The result was a highly ambitious bid looking to the long term regeneration of the town. The Bid as a whole and the Events Centre in particular, I am sure will be the catalyst for huge amounts of inward investment into the town.”
Councillor Myers says it was refreshing to hear the clear and independent insight of the Board Chair into the bid process and the work involved in it, commenting:
“All of those involved in the bid’s success deserve huge praise for their efforts. It’s very clear to me from Rob’s response that this was very much a team effort.
“It’s heartening to hear that the council put in so much hard work into ensuring this funding success for Southport. It’s been clear for some time that the best way forward for Southport is a positive and collaborative approach.
“There is still a long way to go in the process but now that funding has been secured, Sefton Council will be doing all it can to help and ensure that Southport emerges from the pandemic with hope for the future.
“Having already done so much of the heavy lifting to help Southport residents and local businesses during the Covid crisis, it will continue to strive to regenerate our local economy – just as it is fighting hard to do the same elsewhere in the borough.”