Rochdale Council has announced plans to spend £9m investing in the borough's future.
It aims to allocate funds to help safeguard local jobs, make the area more attractive to shoppers and investors, and support businesses.
Funds will be spent on a range of projects including transport improvements, town centre regeneration, events, improving local people's skills, and providing extra front-line social care staff.
The council said most of the funding will come from its priority investment fund and capital programme, already allocated through the annual budget last month. It is in addition to other spending previously announced by the council in the budget-setting process.
Cllr Irene Davidson, leader of the council, said: "This is a substantial amount of money to lay some firm foundations for the borough's future. We want to respond to local needs and concerns but at the same time provide a boost for the local economy. The condition of the roads, transport, town centre and employment opportunities are some of the things residents regularly tell us they want to see improved."
"We're acting now to make sure that the borough is best-placed for the future. We want local people to have an area they can be proud of – and much of this work on putting infrastructure in place will help the borough succeed in the years and decades to come."
The proposals include £3.5m of investment in transport including the completion of a Rochdale inner ring-road, improved parking at railway stations, and better traffic management for Heywood town centre. This includes:
- Better railway station parking at Rochdale, Littleborough and Castleton
- Environmental improvement to Littleborough Arches
- Completing the Roch Valley Trail
- £1.5m investment in strategic improvements of the highways including major resurfacing programmes
A total of £3m will be put towards kick starting changes to the town centre after the council adopted a new masterplan for the town. This includes plans to open up the town hall square into a large public space, which it claims will be the largest in Europe. Other investment in the town centre will pay for improvements to Drake Street and the area at the bottom of Yorkshire Street. Also:
- Signage improvements on Drake Street to help create an enhanced environment to encourage investment
- Integration of the colleges to Rochdale town centre, improved subway connections and creation of a public square on St Mary's Gate
- Improvements to Yorkshire Street and the Butts area to complement investment in other areas of the town centre
There will be an investment of £400,000 in skills and training for local people for employment opportunities. Targeted community and projects are being aimed at young people and families, and adults needing help with literacy. There'll also be re-training schemes for people working in vulnerable business sectors.
A programme of events throughout 2010 will be given £250,000, with an aim of attracting more people into the borough's four towns and support local businesses. There will also be further support for attracting inward investment to the borough, including Kingsway Business Park.
Cllr Davidson added: "Over the last year the council's spent a lot of time listening to people's views about how the borough should be positioned locally, regionally and nationally, this is a response to what those people have told us they want. The £3m for the town centre will help increase the vitality of Rochdale and we'll make every effort to make sure local businesses are involved in the discussion and benefit from the investment. As the country starts to move out of recession this work will help our borough be in the best shape it can be to recover."
The council is also proposing to allocate an additional £580,000 from the budget pressures fund to spend on children's social care services. From April 2010 onwards this will be used to provide additional resources, including an additional 14 front line staff to support the borough's most vulnerable children.
Cllr Davidson said: "The safeguarding of children in Rochdale is an absolute priority for the council, and this injection of funds is designed to ensure that we are able to protect our children who are most in need."
All of the proposals will be presented to the council's cabinet for decision on Monday 22 March 2010.