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Knowsley Council working well to deliver services in uncertain times

by Gemma Melling

 The Knowsley Council Governance and Audit Committee has today received an update on the key risks facing the council.

Managing risk is crucial, particularly in these constantly changing and challenging times and the council does this as effectively as possible.  While it is not possible to make such risks go away completely, it is important to work to minimise the impact of those risks on the operation of the council and on Knowsley’s residents and businesses.

The council’s Risk Register identifies 37 risks.  The majority relate to the cost of living crisis, uncertainty over Government funding, and the national Government’s shifting and changing policy agenda – risks which are not unique to Knowsley.  Two national risks have also been added which relate to the potential for a national power outage and new Government requirements for photo ID to be produced when voting at elections.  The council has developed detailed plans to manage both of these risks.

Despite the challenges, the council’s robust approach to financial management means that it’s budget is in a relatively stable position.  While still facing a budget deficit, the scale of the forecast deficit in Knowsley’s case is less severe than those faced by other comparable local authorities.

This effective financial management has enabled the council to invest in Knowsley’s town centres to support the local economy by boosting footfall.  Recent examples include purchasing Kirkby Town Centre in November 2019 and delivering a 94,000 feet2 retail development in under two years – recent BBC research showed that footfall in the town has increased by 160% compared to pre-pandemic levels.  Similarly, Knowsley Council’s initial investment in Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot encouraged others to invest in the town, with the opening of the new Playhouse attracting attention by being viewed by millions on national TV and bringing a 21% increase in footfall in the town.  Both of these examples are bucking the national trend.

Knowsley Council’s ambitious plans for Halewood can now progress having recently secured £15.3m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund (Round 2) to support plans to expand facilities and services in the town to support the growing population.  Improved leisure and retail facilities are planned, along with better connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists from and to the 1,300 new homes which are being constructed in the area.

The Financial Times has also recently highlighted Knowsley as being one of the top three areas in the country to have the best recovery from the pandemic.

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, said: “Managing risks is a crucial part of what we do.

“We provide services to our communities in a complex and ever-changing environment, which means that there will always be risks which need to be identified and managed.

“While many of the risks we face are not unique to Knowsley, the levels of instability at national government level mean that we are currently having to work even harder to manage the risks to the council and Knowsley residents.

“I’m proud that our robust financial management means that we’ve been able to support residents through the cost of living crisis so far, as well as supporting our town centres as we recover from the pandemic.  It’s pleasing to note that this work has been nationally recognised by the BBC and the Financial Times.”