Falling behind the four shires

WORCESTERSHIRE is “falling further behind” rivals like Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire for skills, jobs and economic growth, according to a leading council chief executive.

Trish Haines has used her annual report to say the county is facing a “skills deficit” that needs to be tackled urgently.

Ms Haines, the chief executive at County Hall, said economic data reveals how Worcestershire has some way to go before it can truly punch above its weight.

On “Gross Value Added” measurements, a signal of economic growth, the county is now ahead of only Herefordshire and Shropshire in the region.

Her report, which was debated during a meeting of full council, also said that residents should “come together and do things for themselves” to save taxpayers’ money.

She said: “Our task is to support communities to come together and do things for themselves, and actively participate in delivering those services which are important to them, and which might otherwise cease through lack of funding.”

The authority has launched a scheme called Act Local, where community groups are asked to do work like cut hedges, run youth centres and staff libraries for free.

Ms Haines also said good examples of where it has worked so far include Peopleton, where the parish council has installed new drainage, and in Feckenham, where a village shop is staffed by volunteers.

The council is trying to save up to £100 million by 2016 under a scheme called BOLD, short for “Better Outcomes Lean Delivery”.

She said: “We are going though a process of change and reduced budgets and if we don’t lead that, we’ll have a fiasco, a wreckage of services we can’t afford.”

During the debate, some Labour politicians criticised the report for suggesting it had consensus across the council chamber.

Labout leader Peter McDonald said: “There is no cross-party consensus on the way this council is going. The cuts are deplorable and disgraceful.”

Conservative David Thain said the critics were guilty of “comedy economics” by ignoring the need to make savings

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