Sandwell Council budget: have your say online

Sandwell Council is carrying out further consultation with the public on how to make savings to its budget over the coming years. As a Sandwell-based business representative, don’t forget to have your say in the online survey.

Sandwell Council held an initial budget consultation earlier this year. Now it is inviting residents, businesses and voluntary organisations to take part in a further consultation on areas where the council can save money.

Sandwell Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, Councillor Bob Piper said: “The council is facing similar pressure to residents from inflation and rising costs. The cost of living emergency is also creating more demand for some council services. This means that we need to make difficult decisions when the council sets its budget.

Making choices about delivering services

“We currently spend around £317 million each year on our day-to-day services, such as bin collections, street cleansing, running libraries and leisure centres. And around 60 per cent of our budget funds vital services for adult social care and looking after vulnerable children. We must meet our legal requirements, but we can make choices in how we deliver some of these services.

“Sandwell is no different to other councils – we all face significant financial pressures. Although we are in a fortunate position to have options to achieve a balanced budget, this still means we need to make difficult decisions. We need to use our limited resources as efficiently as we can, which means we have to work even harder to continue to deliver services and make the money go further for the years ahead.

“In the past two years, the council has worked hard to make savings of over £30 million.

“The council must make savings of £13 million to ensure we can balance our budget for the next financial year (2024/25). The majority of these savings must be sustainable – so we can continue make these savings over the coming years, not just next year.”

Understanding residents’ priorities

The council’s initial 2024/25 budget consultation, that took place over the summer, saw residents rank their priorities for how the council could achieve savings or increase income, as follows:

  • Selling or developing council buildings
  • Stopping or reducing non-essential services
  • Charging more for some paid-for services
  • Introducing more charging for non-essential services
  • Increasing council tax.

This further consultation will ask more questions about the areas where Sandwell Council can make savings.

Councillor Piper added: “It’s important to us that we consult residents on how the council makes these vital savings. When the consultation closes, we will consider the responses we receive and bring a further report back to the council’s cabinet, before setting the council’s budget in early 2024. The council’s budget will, of course, be influenced by the chancellor’s autumn statement in late November and the Local Government Finance Settlement later in the year.”

The consultation closes on Tuesday 2 January 2024.

‘Enabling net zero’ webinar from the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge

On Thursday 7 December, the IDC will host a webinar about a new report from UKRI and Innovate UK – ‘Enabling net zero: a plan for UK industrial cluster decarbonisation’.

The report highlights the UK’s potential to harness the power of its industrial clusters. It explores how to drive the next phase of emissions reductions, while contributing to a stronger economy and energy security.

The webinar will give an overview of the report, and discuss the key findings, outcomes and recommendations. There will also be a live Q&A with IDC experts.

You can download a copy of the report from the event web page.

Young Planner of the Year 2023: congratulations to Sandwell Council’s Joshua Singh

Sandwell Council’s planning regeneration team leader, Joshua Singh, has won the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)’s national Young Planner of the Year 2023 award.

Josh received the Young Planner of the Year award last week at the RTPI’s Awards for Planning Excellence.

This national award follows Josh winning the West Midlands Young Planner of the Year in June this year. He was recognised for his commitment to making a difference to Sandwell’s residents and businesses. He was also commended for promoting career opportunities in planning to the region’s young people.

Awards for Planning Excellence

At the recent awards the judges commended Josh’s “outstanding commitment and passion”. They added: “As a role model for future young planners, he will benefit the profession and the communities he works within.”

More recently, Josh was part of the team that secured £67.5m of government Towns Fund investment for Sandwell. He lead specifically on the West Bromwich Town Investment Plan. This resulted in West Bromwich securing £25m of funding for six town centre projects.

Josh joined Sandwell Council in 2010. He worked in several planning areas before securing a permanent position in the planning regeneration team in 2015. He has helped to deliver multiple regeneration projects that have benefited the borough. These include leading on a council programme to tackle ‘grot spots’.

The projects ranged from high street upgrades to sustainable transport, with Josh leading on the Urban Greening programme across the town centre.

Making a difference in Sandwell

In addition to these projects, Josh champions engagement with local schools. He works with the council’s employment team to bring career sessions with professional businesses into primary schools.

He has also helped to establish an educational outreach programme to engage with local college students. His aim is to explain what a career in planning might entail.

Josh said: “I’m extremely proud to have won this award and to have this opportunity to represent young planners from the West Midlands region and across the United Kingdom.

“Working in Sandwell for the past fourteen years and raising a young family as a resident of the borough has made me passionate about delivering regeneration and positive transformation for local communities, residents, businesses and young people across the area.

“Winning this award gives me a platform to share this passion and experience. To put Sandwell on the national and international planning stage, showcasing the influential work we’re doing to raise ambitions and create a new story for Sandwell through regeneration and growth.

“I am very fortunate that Sandwell Council has recognised and supported my career, from starting on the main reception through to leading the council’s planning regeneration team. I have a fantastic team around me, and I thank the team of managers who put me forward for this award. Especially Jenna Langford whose footsteps I am following, as a previous recipient of this award in 2019. Two National Young Planners of the Year from Sandwell – we’re obviously doing something right!”

Support from Sandwell Council

Chief Executive of Sandwell Council, Shokat Lal, added: “Josh’s incredible achievement is well-deserved and testimony to his dedication to the people of Sandwell. It is wonderful that the council has been able to support him throughout his career.

“Josh also personifies the vision and ambition for the council and Sandwell as a thriving borough on a journey towards excellence. Josh is a credit to Sandwell, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.”

To find out more about regeneration projects across Sandwell visit

Read the Sandwell Business Growth Plan

Sandwell Council has published its Sandwell Business Growth Plan, outlining how we will support our local businesses for the next two financial years.

We launched the Sandwell Business Growth Plan at a networking event at The Hawthorns on Thursday 23 November.

The plan updates Sandwell Council’s 2021 Action Plan and sets out our strategy for supporting businesses over the next two financial years, focusing on seven economic priorities:

Support in Sandwell
Start Up in Sandwell
Grow in Sandwell
Invest in Sandwell
Innovate in Sandwell
Social Value in Sandwell
Net Zero in Sandwell.

Sandwell: a great place to do business

As you probably know, Sandwell is a great place to do business. Our borough has a £6.4bn economy, with twice the number of manufacturing firms to the national average. It is home to fast-growing, high-employment, and high-turnover businesses. Sandwell also benefits from six interconnected towns, a tradition of locally focused small businesses and an economy driven by private-sector employment and growth.

More investment is coming to Sandwell. Our regeneration pipeline forecasts £2.9bn of investment by 2027 (see the Regenerating Sandwell website for more information). This brings the opportunity to make real improvements to high streets, public assets, skills provision and transport – all to ‘level up’ the borough.

In addition, Sandwell Council can support our businesses to meet the challenge of economic recovery, the carbon net zero transition, and rapidly changing global and local markets and supply chains.

Resources and expertise

This means focusing on doing the things that the council and partners can do to create the conditions for new jobs and skills, tackling inequality and keeping wealth local. Sandwell is part of the UK’s largest combined authority (the West Midlands Combined Authority), and with a range of partners delivering regional business support, our Sandwell Business Growth Team has the resources and expertise to deliver this plan.

Our overall ambition is to accelerate business growth, creating a wealthier Sandwell, gripping investment opportunities, and addressing long-term economic challenges to achieve our goal of “stronger businesses, thriving communities”.

Sandwell Business Growth Plan

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Sandwell Business Growth Plan

Last week, we also launched Sandwell’s Top 50 Fastest Growing Companies Index 2023. Have a look!

Congratulations to A&M EDM on two big awards

A&M EDM has picked up two awards this month. The Smethwick manufacturer was named SME of the Year at the Make UK Midlands and East awards. It also took home the Excellence in Manufacturing and Engineering trophy at the Black Country Chamber Business Awards.

Mark Wingfield and Arthur Watts founded A&M EDM in 2002. Initially a two-person start-up with one rented machine, the company now has over 80 employees across two sites and annual sales of over £7m. It provides precision manufacturing services to many sectors including aerospace, automotive, Formula 1 and motorsports, deep sea and space exploration.

About Make UK

Make UK is a membership organisation which champions and celebrates British manufacturing and manufacturers. Its holds annual Manufacturing Awards, regionally at first and then with a national final, to cast a spotlight on manufacturers’ achievements.

A&M EDM took the coveted ‘SME of the Year’ trophy at Make UK’s Midlands and East awards. According to Make UK, this award champions:

“Businesses with less than 250 employees who have blazed a trail within the manufacturing sector. They will have led by example and developed progressive best practice for others in the industry. They will have shown exceptional initiative, boldness and dynamism, as well as exemplary management practices”.

Sustainable growth and continuous investment in people and equipment

The Make UK judges praised A&M for sustainable growth, innovation, rapid response and continuous investment in people and equipment. In the last year alone, the company has invested £1m in new machines. It has also installed 66 solar panels at its Middlemore Road site and taken on four new apprentices.

The A&M EDM team will now go through to the Make UK national awards, attending a gala dinner at St Paul’s Cathedral in January.

Black Country Chamber Business Awards 2023

A&M EDM also won the Excellence in Manufacturing and Engineering category at the Black Country Chamber Business Awards this month. These annual awards promote the “best of the region” and welcome 500 individuals to a ceremony which this year took place at Wolverhampton Racecourse.

Here at the Sandwell Business Growth Team, we want to say a huge congratulations to A&M EDM!

Get Connected in Sandwell business breakfast in December: ‘Social Value Matters’

Come and network at our free business breakfast event on Wednesday 13 December. We’re hosting this at our new Sandwell Start-Up Hub, alongside Sandwell College and the Black Country Chamber of Commerce. It will have a social value focus.

Our third Get Connected in Sandwell event is called ‘Social Value Matters’. Two special guest speakers will talk about the importance and potential impact of social value in our communities, and how it can help your business when bidding for work.

Michael Wragg is our Senior Social Value Officer here on the Business Growth Team. He’ll tell you what social value means for Sandwell.

And Kim Fuller is Growing Participation and Volunteering Mentor at SCVO. Kim will take a practical look at social value, corporate social responsibility, and employer-supported volunteering.

At the free event, you will also learn about funded courses, grants and business support available for your organisation.

Bacon, sausage or veggie option?

You will also get a free breakfast (with bacon, sausage or vegetarian options). And, of course, the opportunity to network with other businesses.

The breakfast event is taking place at Jack Judge House in Oldbury, from 7.30am to 9.30am.  There is free parking available nearby in Sainsbury’s car park for a maximum of three hours. (If you need to stay longer, download the Horizon parking app and book your space.)

When you arrive, please enter the building via the rear entrance and press the second floor intercom for a council officer to let you in.

Why not bring your laptop, stay on afterwards and work from the Sandwell Start-Up Hub? You just need to book your desk:

Decarbonisation Net Zero Programme launch webinar

The Decarbonisation Net Zero Programme is launching with a webinar on Wednesday 15 November. Attend the online event to hear how the programme can give your business information, expert advice, energy audits, support and grants.

The Decarbonisation Net Zero Programme is to help businesses in Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry and the Black Country cut down on their carbon emissions and energy costs. The West Midlands Combined Authority is delivering it with support from Aston University, the Black Country Industrial Cluster and Coventry City Council.

It is part of wider West Midlands business support activity, funded through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Join the team to learn how this government-funded initiative can make a real difference for your business, helping it to become more eco-friendly and financially sustainable.

Learn about:

  • The support available to businesses
  • Grant support
  • Energy audits and how having one could benefit your business
  • Eligiblity criteria
  • How to apply for the programme.

Learn more about the Decarbonation Net Zero Programme.

Also: find out how, through the programme, you can get free energy-efficient assessments and possible funding for your Sandwell business.

Free energy efficiency assessment and funding for your Sandwell SME

Get a free energy efficiency assessment for your SME. Eligible businesses can then apply for a grant to implement measures to reduce energy demand. 

We’re sharing details of a new government-funded scheme that is providing free energy efficiency assessments to SMEs across the Black Country. 

As part of the Decarbonisation Net Zero Programme, the scheme aims to help small businesses transition to net zero by improving competitiveness and energy efficiency and enhancing business resilience. It is being delivered in affiliation with the Business Energy Advice Service.

Grant funding 

After a free energy efficiency assessment, your eligible business will be able to apply for between £1,000 and £100,000 of 50 per cent net zero grant funding. The funding is available to enable businesses to implement recommended measures to reduce their energy demand and provide energy savings. 

These measures could include investment in new machinery and equipment, improved manufacturing processes, or LED lighting and insulation. 

Energy intensive engineering

Manufacturing experts will also be delivering specialist assessments for energy intensive engineering firms located across the West Midlands.

Register now for your energy efficiency assessment and subsequent funding

Many SMEs faced challenges last winter with rising energy bills, so don’t miss this opportunity to access support and funding.

To learn more about the Decarbonisation Net Zero programme, you may wish to attend this launch webinar on Wednesday 15 November.

You can also get more ideas for energy savings and efficiency on our climate resilience page:

Have your say on the draft Sandwell Local Plan

The Sandwell Local Plan is a document that plans for the future development of our borough. Sandwell Council would like to know your thoughts on the draft.

In the Sandwell Local Plan, Sandwell Council outlines where it expects to build the new homes we need up to 2041. It shows what land is required to accommodate new jobs.

Sandwell Council is holding a consultation so you can have your say on the sites it has proposed for development. Give your feedback on where development should or shouldn’t take place in Sandwell.

Sandwell Council has identified enough land to build more than 11,000 new homes by 2041. However, this isn’t enough to meet the expected housing needs of our growing population. Around 97 per cent of these homes will be built on previously developed or brownfield land. The Sandwell Local Plan protects the Green Belt and does not propose any new development within it.

The Sandwell Local Plan also sets out how we will address challenges like dealing with climate change, protecting our natural environment, supporting our high streets, and encouraging sustainable travel. It includes policies that will help the council to meet its target to be a carbon-neutral borough by 2041.

Have your say

Don’t miss your chance to have a say!

The consultation is now live and will end on Monday 18 December at 5pm.

All of Sandwell libraries have paper copies of the consultation documents and summary document, if you prefer to access it that way.

Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Councillor Peter Hughes, said:

“I would encourage all Sandwell residents and businesses to look at the draft plan and let us have their views on it. This is about our borough’s future so the more people get involved, the better the outcome for all.”

If you have issues accessing the consultation documents, or would like to arrange to speak to a Planning Policy Officer, email or call 0121 569 4054.

Supporting Thomas Howse Ltd to improve its production process

Our Business Growth Team was pleased to help Rowley Regis manufacturer Thomas Howse access AIM for GOLD funding. This enabled the business to buy new machinery and boost its production capacity.

About Thomas Howse

Thomas Howse is an industrial paint and powder coatings firm, which manufactures decorative, industrial and specialist paint and powder coatings. Its range includes block paving and concrete sealers, scaffold and machinery ID paint, skip and refuse container paint, machine paint systems, polyurethane floor paints, gate and fencing paint systems, and chlorinated rubber paints. It also develops custom paints for its customers’ specific applications.

The company started in 1903. One hundred and twenty years later, it is still an independent family-run company operating out of Rowley Regis.

Why and how Sandwell Council helped Thomas Howse

It’s easy for machinery to become out of date. It’s less easy for smaller businesses to afford to upgrade or replace it. We helped Thomas Howse to access AIM for GOLD funding, enabling the company to buy new production machinery.

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the AIM for GOLD programme was for stimulating business resilience, recovery and/or growth in the Black Country. It combined specialist support with grant funding. Our Business Growth Team was proud to deliver it in Sandwell. Together we helped over 90 Sandwell firms with either one-to-one support, or accessing grant funding, or both.

We know businesses are key to building community wealth in Sandwell, so we’re only too happy to support in their journey to success.

Through AIM for GOLD, we helped Thomas Howse to access £29k of grant funding. This meant the company could buy new equipment, increasing its production capacity, reducing waste, reducing energy consumption and improving the whole production process.

“Hands on, jargon-free approach”

Garry Plant is General Manager of Thomas Howse. Garry said: “We really appreciated the hands on, jargon free, direct approach of the AIM for GOLD team. The process was transparent, to the point and made to measure.”

Nicy Morgan was Thomas Howse’s business mentor from our Business Growth Team. She said: “Thomas Howse has sustained livelihoods in Rowley Regis for over a century. We are so lucky to have this historic and successful firm here in Sandwell. It gave me great pleasure to help Garry and his team access and make effective use of the grant to update its machinery.

“We are delighted to hear about the efficiency of the new equipment: the savings in both time and money it is helping the team to make.”

About AIM for GOLD in Sandwell

Together with regional partners Wolverhampton, Walsall and Dudley councils, the AIM for GOLD scheme supported 292 companies and awarded over £3.2m of grant funding.

Our Business Growth Team at Sandwell Council was delighted to exceed all targets for delivering AIM for GOLD. These targets included the number of companies supported, the amount of grant funding issued and the number of new jobs generated.

In Sandwell, we helped 49 businesses access at least £1000 each in AIM for GOLD funding – with over £792,000 awarded in all. This led to the creation of ­37 new jobs and helped Sandwell companies leverage over £1.7m in private sector finance.

Contact our Business Growth Team today
Find out more