By Angela Haggerty
Calls for the full publication of a report highlighting the failings of a regeneration project in Inverclyde which has cost the tax payer £59m are growing after it emerged only a fraction of targets had been achieved after seven years.
Riverside Inverclyde was launched in 2006 with the aim of using less than £100m of public money to create 2600 jobs, 2285 new homes and attract £300m in private investment.
However, a mid-term review carried out by Deloitte on behalf of the council and Scottish Enterprise revealed that after almost £60m from the public purse the agency had created just 191 jobs and 121 new homes, with only one per cent of the private investment target achieved at £3.6m. Staggeringly, it emerged that Riverside Inverclyde spent over £10m purchasing James Watt Dock on Greenock’s waterfront from Peel Holdings real estate, only for the land later to be valued at minus £6m due to contamination.
Furthermore, the full findings of the report were not released to the public despite being revealed to Inverclyde Council three weeks ago, prompting calls from the Scottish Parliament for full transparency. The report is expected to dominate a pre-arranged appearance of Riverside Inverclyde in front of the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee after the summer.
Local Government and Regeneration Committee member, Stuart McMillan MSP, said: “It is vitally important that these reports are made public; it is public money that has meant to have been used for the regeneration of Inverclyde and the people of this area and across Scotland have right to know exactly what has happened here.
“It is essential that this report is released to allow all members of the committee to be fully informed of the position of Riverside Inverclyde before they give evidence to the committee.
“The people of Greenock and the Inverclyde area deserve so much better than the mismanagement of a service which should be doing so much more for the area than it has so far. I am absolutely committed to getting to the very bottom of this and I challenge Labour-run Inverclyde Council to work with me on this.”
The 10-year Riverside Inverclyde project was launched in 2004 as a joint initiative between Inverclyde Council, Clydeport Ltd and Scottish Enterprise Renfrewshire amid hopes of boosting employment and attracting private investors to the area.
Leaks from the report indicated staff morale was low despite average salaries sitting at £70,000, while some board members were said to be “frustrated” by Labour led Council’s approach to working with the organisation, describing it as “unnecessarily challenging”.
Following the report, Inverclyde Council has tabled five proposals to go before the Riverside Inverclyde board, signalling attempts to tighten reigns on the project.
The council will ask the regeneration agency board to agree to a review of Riverside’s management structure; enter into discussions on the “composition” of the board; agree to a two-year regeneration operating plan drawn up jointly by Riverside Inverclyde and Inverclyde Council; establish a closer working relationship between agency staff and the council’s economic development service; and agreement on the implementation of a monitoring and review process.
Councillor Michael McCormick, Inverclyde’s Environment and Regeneration Convener, said: “It’s clear that in some areas Riverside Inverclyde has worked well and also that we’ve faced some tough economic conditions.
“We now wish to focus on delivering a single regeneration and economic development operating plan geared towards the opportunities and financial picture we face today. That way we can make sure that we work together to maximise the impact of our work.”
There were some areas of success for the project, including positive development of Riverside Business Park and improvements to parts of Greenock and Glasgow town centres.
Inverclyde SNP group leader, Chris McEleny, described the review as “extremely disappointing” and suggested the information may have been prevented from emerging sooner by the Inverclyde Labour-run council to “hide the bad news” from the public before last year’s local council elections.