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Neath Port Talbot Council proposes £5m spend to kickstart recovery

Aberavon Beach

Neath Port Talbot Council has published proposals to use up to £5 million of its reserves to kickstart the county borough’s recovery from the Covid pandemic.

A report due to be considered by the council’s Cabinet on Wednesday 30 June, outlines additional investments in activities to assist local businesses, support local communities and ensure clean and safe neighbourhoods.

Up to £260,000 worth of grants for small businesses are available to help them succeed into 2022 and beyond; £135,000 to improve the appearance public spaces across the county borough and £300,000 to boost a programme that helps people stay strong, safe and well connected with their communities are just some of the areas where additional investment is being proposed.

A council spokesperson said:

“Over the past 15 months, the council has stepped up to support the NHS and our communities through initiatives such as the launch of our NPT Safe & Well Service, administering millions of pounds of financial assistance to local businesses; facilitating the use of Margam Orangery as a Mass Vaccination Centre and working with the Health Board to deliver the Immbulance Mobile Vaccination Unit.

“We are now looking at the legacy that Covid-19 is leaving for our communities, and considering the role the council has to play in supporting recovery.

“If our proposals are approved next week, the money will help to address some of the more immediate issues, but in the autumn we will need to decide on our priorities for the next few years and how we can best use the council’s resources to help secure the long-term future of the county borough.

“Our plan is to engage with communities over the summer through our ‘Let’s Talk’ initiative. This will help us to fully understand the impact of Covid on local people and local organisations, find out what matters most to people now and for the future, and establish how we can continue the spirit of collaboration that developed through the pandemic.”
During the pandemic, the nature of some local businesses enabled them to adapt and thrive, whilst others faced real hardship and the report details proposals for investment to support businesses and employment. These include up to £260,000 for grants to small businesses and up to £250,000 for launching Commercial Property Grants.

The Commercial Property Grants are a key part of a recent council bid for nearly £10m worth of funding from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund which, if approved, would see a renewed Civic Square and improvements to Riverside in Port Talbot and a new Piazza in Neath’s Town centre. Available throughout Neath Port Talbot, the Commercial Property Grants would fund up to 45% of the costs of buying and renovating commercial buildings for new uses, boosting investment and jobs. The council is bidding for £6m towards the Commercial Property Grant programme across the county borough.

In terms of supporting communities, the Local Area Coordinator programme and NPT Safe & Well Service have played a crucial role alongside community groups and the voluntary sector over the past 15 months. The report proposes additional funding to build on this hyper-local neighbourhood support going forward, with £300,000 for additional staff and the development of proposals to augment the work of the Local Area Co-ordinators. The intention would be for these to connect with local groups for feedback on where the funding might be most helpful. There is also £640,000 earmarked for the Members’ Community Fund to enable every ward across NPT to benefit from community improvements identified as a priority by the local ward member up to 31 March 2023.

Proposals for investment in streetscene and facilities to develop clean and safe neighbourhoods include improvements to the kiosk and toilet facilities at the Aberavon Seafront, £135,000 for employing additional seasonal staff to improve the appearance of public spaces across the county borough; street furniture, streetscene painting, roundabout initiatives, bus shelters, playground equipment and sign renewals; and money from the DARE (the council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy programme) Reserve to deliver the council’s decarbonisation, energy, vehicle, transport and electric charging points strategy.

The proposed additional reserves spend would come on top of a significant £80m investment approved at the council’s meeting on March 9, 2021, through the Capital Programme. Major outcomes from the investment include: the opening of the new £27m Cefn Saeson Comprehensive, progressing with the new school to replace Abbey Primary, progressing improvement work at Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyera, continuing investment at Margam Park, continuing the regeneration programme involving Harbourside, the Neath Town Centre redevelopment, the Plaza cinema development and the self-powering technology centre (Baglan Energy Park) and continued investment of £3m in Disabled Facilities Grants.

Cabinet members will be asked when they meet on Wednesday, June 30th, to approve the investments set out in the report funded from reserves and borrowing.

A separate report detailing proposals to invest an additional £500,000 in street scene improvements is due to be presented to the Streetscene and Engineering Cabinet Board on Friday 2 July.