£2m windfall for tramway

Bombardier's FLEXITY2 tram
Bombardier's FLEXITY2 tram
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COUNTY Hall chiefs today confirmed a further £2m investment into the Blackpool and Fleetwood tram upgrade.

The cash injection is the latest phase of Lancashire County Council’s total commitment of £15.2m towards the £100m scheme for a new track and 16 trams.

The money is part of a £50m ‘legacy’ fund announced by the county council which has secured the windfall by reducing management costs and making investments in government bonds.

Council leader Geoff Driver said: “We’re delighted to announce this massive new investment and determined it will leave a positive, lasting legacy.

“Young people are at the heart of our proposals because they are the future.

“We also plan to direct some of this investment into providing the right infrastructure and other conditions that make Lancashire a good place to do business.”

The council’s cabinet has laid out a series of legacy projects aimed at improving opportunities for young people and promoting economic growth.

These include a £10m apprenticeship scheme to encourage employers to take on trainees, a £5m investment over five years to support the cost of young people travelling to education, employment and training and £10m to help businesses grow.

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Another £6m is earmarked for the Youth Zone programme to provide more activities for young people, £3m for a youth mentoring programme involving armed forces veterans and £1m for refurbishing libraries. The tramway money is part of a £15m pot for four transport projects in the county.

The £50m includes £10m in savings made on administration and management costs and a £40m cash boost from investments made in government bonds.

The council switched to the bonds, also known as gilts, as a safer place to invest its money after having its fingers burned in the Icelandic banking crash.

Chief executive Phil Halsall said: “We’re the biggest council in the north of England and at any one time we have a large amount of money in the bank and other investments, which we draw on to pay the bills throughout the year.

“Two years ago we decided to bring added expertise into the organisation to help us manage those funds so they are as secure as possible, while delivering good rates of interest.

“We shifted a lot of the council’s funds into gilts and these offer such security that, in the turbulent economic climate, they have since become very popular with other organisations looking for safer investments.

“That has enabled the council to sell on its gilts and generate this huge one-off windfall, which can now be pumped back into local services in Lancashire.”