NEIGHBOURING council bosses will seek to secure an ‘urgent meeting’ with leaders in Barnsley - after the town centre’s regeneration scheme and recent award wins were praised.
Wakefield Council expressed a desire to build closer, cross-border links with Barnsley Council at a meeting yesterday following a motion put forward by Coun Samantha Harvey, who represents the Wakefield Rural ward, which includes Woolley Grange.
Coun Harvey praised Barnsley’s Glass Works scheme and paid tribute to the council’s leadership over the last decade which saw it become the first to bag two of the most prestigious local government awards in the same year.
BBC newsreader Huw Edwards announced Barnsley Council as the MJ Awards’ local authority of the year at a ceremony in London last Friday, following their triumph at the Local Government Chronicle Awards earlier this month where they were crowned council of the year.
She told the Chronicle: “Barnsley’s turnaround has been remarkable and that achievement is testament to the clear leadership there is.
“The Glass Works is a place where people from all over want to visit and it shows just how well-backed it is when the NHS invested in a diagnostics hub there, so it’s not just its retail offering that’s great.
“The recent award wins cannot be praised enough, but it’s thoroughly deserved and I believe there’s potential for better collaborative working with leaders from both Barnsley and Wakefield.
“Learning from a successful council like Barnsley’s is essential to improving our city as over the border they are showing exactly what can be done.”
The Glass Works venture has attracted big names including TK Maxx, River Island, Nando’s, TGI Fridays, The Botanist, Cineworld and Superbowl UK to the new-look leisure hub which cost more than £200m to create.
It’s been the catalyst for huge visitor numbers, according to Barnsley Council, with more than half a million visits being made to the town centre last month - the highest footfall figures since the Glass Works opened in September last year.
The number of visitors coming to the town centre continue to soar month-on-month, with the most recent data showing an increase of more than 30 per cent footfall over the last three months, when compared to the same time frame before the pandemic.
Council leader Sir Steve Houghton added: “The whole point of investing in the town centre in the first place was to make Barnsley a place where people want to come, and it’s already gaining a reputation from not only local shoppers but from other towns and cities, too.
“A key part of that is down to the Glass Works and the associated work we’re doing surrounding the overall scheme, which spans right from the Civic to the new bridge, and there’s more to come.
“We’ve already heard so many people say how much they love the Glass Works and our amazing new town centre.
“It’s fantastic to have two sets of independent experts in local government, tell us just how impressed they are, and now Wakefield Council.
“People from all over the country are literally asking us ‘how have you done that?’ and we’re happy to work together wherever possible.
“In both of the award wins, it’s about so much more than the town centre.
“The judges have recognised we deliver high levels of service across the board compared to other areas, we spend less money than other areas, and we’re doing things which stand out.
“That includes bringing NHS services into the heart of our town centre making it easier than ever to get the vital checks that people need, and bringing more and better-paid jobs through growing the digital sector and supporting our home-grown businesses, meaning for the first time in decades we have more job vacancies than we have people looking for work.
“We’re so proud of what we’ve achieved not just for the council but for our partners and Barnsley and hope others can learn from our success.”