Council chiefs unveil jobs plan but admit it has problems

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Council bosses yesterday heralded a £350m five-year plan to create 5,000 jobs, but admitted they could only fund the scheme for two years and said it would need green belt development to succeed.

Barnsley Council said its idea would need £26m of council taxpayers cash to create three new business parks in the borough, which would then bring in the rest of the investment from the private sector.

But the authority’s leader Coun Steve Houghton said the latest calculations showed that only around £14.5m could be found, with all of that sum coming from the sale of council land and other assets.

He said: “The idea is that once we fund the first two years, it will generate income which we can feed back in to fund years three, four and five. It’s an ambitious plan and we are excited about it.”

Barnsley’s job market is heavily reliant on the public sector which is facing heavy cutbacks and council bosses said encouraging business to set up on business parks would help create new jobs.

However sites for the business parks have not yet been identified, and a council report which details the plan suggests that parts of the borough’s green belt may be reallocated as employment land.

The report also says that without some form of intervention, Barnsley’s economy, which is already struggling, will fall further behind comparable areas, leading to further job losses and hardship.

Coun Houghton said the authority wanted to draw up a plan for the next two decades, but felt that action had to be taken now to stop any further decline.

The idea is supported by the Barnsley Independent Group whose leader Coun Phil Borkinshaw, described it as “an excellent start.”