Home Editor's pick Council agrees £8m of investments to boost all aspects of life in Knowsley

Council agrees £8m of investments to boost all aspects of life in Knowsley

by Gemma Melling

Projects and services which will improve people’s lives in Knowsley have today (Wednesday, 21 July) been agreed by the council’s Cabinet.

They met to agree a wide-ranging package of investments totalling £8.3m, to be spent on everything from free car parking to mental health services.

The Cabinet heard that the council is in an extremely strong position to invest in its communities thanks to its robust financial management and decisive decision making in recent years. This puts it in a position to make these investments at a key time – when the borough begins its recovery from the impact of COVID and all the lockdowns.

The investments which were agreed include investing in parks, support to get local business booming, the creation of jobs and opportunities for young people, increased access to mental health services for all and preventative work to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, said: “The past couple of years have been incredibly challenging for our borough. After more than 10 years of Government austerity, and the worst cuts to our funding of any other local authority, the pandemic struck. We found ourselves for many weeks enduring the highest case levels in the country – and the lockdowns have had a significant impact on local businesses and people’s mental wellbeing.

“To be in a position where we can invest this level of funding is something I’m incredibly proud of. It’s what we’ve worked towards despite everything that has hit us, and now it’s more important than ever as we look to recovery post-pandemic.”

What are the investments?

Money will now be spent on the following projects, services and improvements:

  • £1 million to tackle anti-social behaviour and criminality.
  • £650,000 to improve roads and carry out a backlog of repairs.
  • £380,000 to improve the general appearance of the borough – more grass cutting, litter picking, weed control and efforts to tackle flytipping following the pandemic.
  • £244,000 to bring our parks back to the highest of standards and encourage people to make use of our green spaces.
  • £500,000 to boost plans for Knowsley’s year as the Liverpool City Region Borough of Culture in 2022.
  • £450,000 to maintain free parking for shoppers in all of Knowsley’s town centres.
  • £300,000 for town centre events to encourage more people back to our high streets.
  • £260,000 to support businesses to create and safeguard jobs.
  • £225,000 to support local businesses to create 50 more apprenticeship placements for 16-18 year olds.
  • £520,000 to put social workers into schools to identify issues early and provide targeted support for our most vulnerable residents.
  • £60,000 for more mental health support for young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
  • £250,000 for a ‘World of Work’ team to support 14-18 year olds to prepare for the transition into employment.
  • £82,000 for additional careers advice and guidance for Year 9 children at risk of becoming NEET.
  • £105,000 to fund a dedicated resource that will identify and procure specialist support for adults with complex needs.
  • £869,000 for a pilot scheme to better support families with disabled children and families in crisis.
  • £429,000 to fund a team of people working on early intervention and specialist support for residents to enable them to remain independent for as long as possible.
  • £490,000 to appoint more mental health practitioners to support our residents when they need it.
  • £900,000 to create a council graduate and apprenticeship programme to provide career opportunities and support the long-term development of the workforce.
  • £570,000 to progress plans for the rationalisation of the council’s Huyton campus to better serve the needs of the workforce following the pandemic.
Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council

What these investments will mean to Knowsley

After such a tough time for businesses in Knowsley, part of the focus of these new investments will be on supporting them and delivering vibrant town centres. During the pandemic, the demand for help from the council for local businesses increased by 300%. Knowsley remains committed to ongoing support as the post-COVID recovery continues. The investments will see the council continue to offer free short stay parking in the town centres, whilst also hosting a programme of exciting town centre events throughout the year to boost footfall. There is also a £100,000 pot to help boost job creation across the borough.

Knowsley’s parks have also received a large chunk of the investment. Having seen a surge in usage whilst restrictions and lockdowns were in place, the council wants to ensure green spaces are maintained to the highest of standards, carrying out maintenance that has been postponed during the pandemic so that residents can continue to use and enjoy their local parks for exercise, socialising and sport. This includes a Green Space Events and Activity Programme and is complemented by the council’s existing tree planting programme, which has already seen almost 1,700 trees planted in the borough so far.

Services for children with disabilities and adults needing complex care will be boosted to the tune of almost £1m, whilst mental health interventions will receive an additional £500,000 to help them meet the increased demand for support.

And, to address the significant impact of the lockdowns on the education and wellbeing of children and young people, £1.1m has been allocated for projects which benefit them directly. This includes mental health services and a team of school-based social workers supporting vulnerable children. There is help for young people moving into work, with targeted support starting with pupils in Year 9, as well as the establishment of a ‘World of Work’ team to support all 14-18 years olds and the creation of 50 additional apprenticeships for Knowsley young people. The council itself will also launch a two-year council Graduate / Apprenticeship programme.

£1m has been allocated to help tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in the borough. Interventions are already being worked up with partner agencies following the Knowsley Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour Summit that took place on 15 July 2021.

Other areas of investment include additional funding for highways maintenance, whilst one of the council’s outdated admin buildings (the “Yorkon” Building) will also be demolished to make way for the regeneration of Huyton Village.

A positive impact on everyone in Knowsley

Cllr Morgan said: “Unfortunately, the pandemic has made the challenges our borough already faced even more acute.

“We have more people than ever needing mental health support; our young people have suffered repeated disruption to their education and are worried about their future job prospects. Our town centres, our small businesses, those who employ others and help make the borough a great place to be, have been hit by closures, reduced footfall and massive reductions in income.  We’ve all discovered how much we appreciate our local parks and green spaces during lockdown, but more maintenance is needed to keep these up to our high standards. And we know crime and anti-social behaviour remain key concerns.”

“This £8.3m investment  package is designed to have the biggest possible impact on all of these challenges, and I really feel that with such a wide-range of projects being delivered, they will make a positive difference to the lives of each and every person living in the borough.”

He added: “We know our decision to increase Council Tax has been shouted down by some. And of course, we would prefer proper, fairer funding from Government. But in the absence of that, it would have been reckless in the extreme not to seek to secure the borough’s financial future. We certainly would not be here today announcing such positive news for the borough – and our ability to recover strongly from this pandemic would have been very much in doubt.”

“Instead, we’re able to propose investments like these, which will support our local economy and help individuals access opportunities which will stand them in good stead for years to come. There are not many councils in the country who find themselves in as strong a place as we are right now, which makes me extremely optimistic about the future.”