Council aims to bring jobs back to town

Hundreds of council jobs will be based in Berwick as part of plans to devolve key services to market towns across Northumberland.

Thursday, 28th April 2016, 10:02 am
The plans for the former Kwik Save

New offices on the site of the derelict former Kwik Save site on Walkergate will be the base for some 220 jobs.

However, the Labour administration at Northumberland County Council is also considering the use of other buildings in the town as part of its ‘significant investment’ in Berwick.

The jobs will be a mix between the private sector and relocated council services as the council looks to provide more than 30 services for local residents within ‘easy walking distance’.

The number of jobs which will be based in the town is likely to be between 200 and 300 after the move from County Hall.

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The move will see a much more evenly spread authority which will share out services and jobs between the county’s market towns.

The retention of private sector jobs bucks the trend where local firms have been looking for more purpose-built office space and have moved from town centre locations to places like Berwick Workspace which is now 100 per cent occupied.

Labour and Lib Dems have highlighted the need to work together, leave negative party political posturing at the door and make sure Berwick gets its fair share of investment.

Cllr Gavin Jones, Lib Dem member for Berwick North, said: “These are real jobs and this is real investment in Berwick.

“We need employment and investment in Berwick and projects like the Walkergate development provide exactly that.”

The Walkergate development will be complemented by a coach park which is tipped to bring thousands of new customers into the town benefitting local businesses and the wider local economy.

Labour have calculated the potential benefit to the town from the long awaited coach park in the region of £2.5m per year. The Walkergate development will see a similar figure through increased footfall for local businesses from council staff and customers using the increased council services.

In addition, the Labour run council and private sector development company Arch have rolled out a series of exciting projects which will see a refurbished Cowe building in the town, a new state of the art Berwick Infirmary hospital in collaboration with the NHS, free parking which has increased business footfall in the town and a multi-million pound investment in the leisure centre and the Maltings.

Cllr Jones said: “When I was elected in 2013, I recognised that we were in a time of shrinking public funds and how important it was for the community for me to work constructively with others with a positive agenda to invest in the future of Berwick. I am happy to report that I work constructively with the Labour controlled County Council to attract investment and retain and grow employment opportunities. It protects employment in our town and it provides a great opportunity to bring hundreds of good quality council jobs and services into Berwick from Morpeth.

“The Chapel Street Coach Park will be delivered this summer on the site of Swan’s Yard, formerly used for parking up coaches. This will create opportunities for our businesses and local economy running to millions of pounds.

“As the ward councillor, I do not see it as my role to reject these opportunities in favour of unfunded whims, especially given Jus-Rol. I am very pleased to be working constructively with Cllr Dickinson and the Labour Administration to get the best deal for our town.”

Cllr Scott Dickinson, former Labour candidate for Berwick, added: “The council have provided a huge opportunity to revitalise health services in the town through the use of our capital and we’ll see a new Berwick Infirmary from that. That means our current services will be safeguarded and we’ll continue to see the town benefit from jobs and services. We’re not complacent and we’re willing to work with everyone who wants to leave negative party politics at the door and we’re already seeing the benefits of that.

“We’ll see over £20m spent in Berwick over the coming years which will mean jobs and economic opportunities for the people of Berwick and we’ll seek to work on sensible, value for money projects which will add value to the town against the backdrop of over 80% cuts to the council budget.

“Gone are the days where we can ‘take a punt’ on projects, we’ve got to be crystal clear on the benefits to the town and not live in a ‘virtual fantasy world’ where uncosted ideas can halt costed projects which will bring much more to Berwick.”