TWICE as many tourists are visiting Rotherham than they are Barnsley every year - prompting the council to discuss ways funding could improve the town’s economy.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) is a three-year funding programme which runs from 2022 to 2025 and is part of national government’s mission to level up the whole of the United Kingdom.

South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority was identified as the ‘delivery geography’ for UKSPF which meant that the investment plan for the fund had to be developed at a South Yorkshire level.

Barnsley has been reassured by SYMCA that it will benefit to the value of £7.2m, but the council has said that this figure could increase.

The first year of funding for Barnsley supported residents through Covid schemes and allowances - and a report, which will be discussed by the council’s ruling cabinet members on Wednesday, has highlighted the areas they would like to work on going forward.

The report states: “Working closely with partners at a South Yorkshire and Yorkshire level, the Welcome to Barnsley project will engage with partners to identify what other key interventions are required to maximise the visitor economy in the borough and enable growth of existing businesses.

“The borough is under performing in terms of its visitor economy, despite a very strong culture, heritage and landscape offer.

“Research demonstrates that the visitor economy of its neighbours and comparators Rotherham and Doncaster generate a much higher benefit for the local economy.

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“When compared to its neighbours Barnsley only has half the tourism day visits that Rotherham (two million per annum when compared to four million) secures for instance, and less than a third of Doncaster (seven million), despite the fact that the borough’s culture/heritage and landscape tourism offers are very strong.

“This is limiting the growth of existing tourism businesses in the borough, and the potential employment opportunities.”

Funding could also be used to improve the town’s library network.

“Our ambition is to replicate the success of our flagship Lightbox development within our stock of 14 district libraries which Barnsley has retained despite years of austerity,” the report added.

“To help us achieve this aim, we wish to refurbish much of our library assets to reflect the modern standards on display at the Lightbox.

“Barnsley Council is investing in this programme but the funding will enable us to go further faster in realising this vision.”

Other areas of improvement the council has said they would be open to submitting bids for are funding improvements to town centres and high streets, neighbourhood projects such as flooding, improvements to local green spaces and enhanced support for heritage and cultural institutions.

“We aim to launch a high-profile grant programme for small-scale capital improvements and for key projects and place improvements to build participation, support volunteering and build pride in place,” the report said.

“This is something that can complement our existing investments in communities such as our highly effective area governance model and our Principal Towns programme.”