A publicly-funded enterprise company could be in for enhanced scrutiny after the recent change of administration at North Ayrshire Council.
Irvine Bay Regeneration Company, which receives the bulk of its core funding from the Council, is in the process of sending-out yet another full-colour, glossy brochure to 43,000 local addresses. Titled ‘Baywatch’, the brochure tells a story of work being carried out by the private company in regenerating an area it calls ‘Irvine Bay’ but which includes the Three Towns of Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston.
In the last financial year for which figures are available (2010/2011), the Irvine Bay Regeneration Company received £2,331,000 from cash-strapped North Ayrshire Council. However, close examination of the private company’s Annual Report reveals few significant regeneration targets have been achieved.
Irvine Bay lists a series of targets to be achieved by the year 2020, but current performance indicates the organisation could struggle to reach them. By 2020 the company should have created 2,467 new jobs, but as of March 2011 (the end-point of the company’s Annual Report), the figure for new jobs created stood at 191. No further detail is provided of exactly where the jobs were created or in which sector.
Through regeneration projects, Irvine Bay’s 2020 target for construction jobs created is 2,761 – by March 2011, however, only 145 had been created. The company’s target for training weeks achieved is 10,944, but so far it stands at 580.
In addition, Irvine Bay has a goal of creating 1,273 new homes (both private and social) by 2020: the company’s Annual Report shows that by March 2011 only 8 had been built.
There are, though, three areas in which Irvine Bay is already exceeding its targets – Partners attending Board Meetings, Number of Consultation Events and Number of Attendees at Consultation Events.
On top of the £2,331,000 received last year from North Ayrshire Council, Irvine Bay Regeneration Company pocketed further core funding from the public purse in the shape of £1,809,000 from Scottish Enterprise (Ayrshire) and £1,352,000 from the Scottish Government, giving a total of £5,492,000.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior member of staff from North Ayrshire Council told the3towns, “Even under the previous Labour administration, concerns were beginning to emerge over the return generated from investment in Irvine Bay. From early soundings with SNP members, I sense there is a feeling that public money could be better spent.”
The official added, “I don’t see Irvine Bay being cut adrift, but the administration may decide to look at how much of the regeneration work it presently does could actually be done ‘in-house’, and reduce Irvine Bay’s funding accordingly.”
However, ahead of a planned public meeting in Irvine, where the company will set out its ongoing plans, Irvine Bay Chief Executive Patrick Wiggins said, “We have updated our business plan for the next five years and this better reflects our fit with national and local strategies.
“The theme is that we are very much here for the long term, that the regeneration company continues to offer the flexibility to adapt to the significant changes in economic and market conditions and to maximise our impact.”