CHESHIRE West and Chester Council will insist that apprenticeships are created for local young people as part of the £40m-plus theatre and cultural centre contract.
Members of the council executive backed the concept design for the heart of the borough’s cultural offer.
Opposition culture spokesman Cllr Louise Gittins maintained that the project would be a perfect opportunity to create much needed jobs for young people.
Cllr Gittins said: “Indeed, apprentices should form part of your (the council’s) contract with any builder. We need to ensure that the local businesses, our economy, benefit from this big build.”
Cllr Herbert Manley, executive member, prosperity, has since responded: “It is the council’s policy to ensure that apprenticeships are created and local firms and labour used whenever possible on any of our projects.
“This is happening on the £8.8m Lion Salt Works project in Northwich and will certainly be a major consideration in drawing up our contract for the construction of the theatre.”
Cllr Samantha Dixon wanted to know whether the project could be phased to allow the earlier operation of one of the two cinemas planned for the complex.
“We need to consider a strategy that will deliver some benefits for the community in a sequential way so that culture and cash can start flowing through the city in the evenings again.
“Cinema operators are champing at the bit to come to Chester as your officers know. Only last week, an operator who read the story online approached us because they would like to be part of this scheme.
“It strikes me that bringing cinema back would be quick to do, cost effective and would give us something to do in the evenings while we wait for the rest of the development to take shape.”
And Cllr Manley has now revealed the nature of the site means the complex would be completed as part of a phased construction programme.
“It may be that we could consider the cinema as part of the audience development program but using a different location until the theatre complex was ready.”
Labour leader Cllr Justin Madders expressed concerns surrounding the growing costs of the project.
He said: “We do need some reassurances that the final bill is not going to swallow up even more of the council’s capital programme – which we know is already stretched to the limit.”
Cllr Manley assured him that the council would continue to monitor the situation against the current financial trends and proposed that ‘the council moved on with speed’ and gave residents what they deserved.
In the report before members indicative building costs are estimated at: theatre £33.8m; library £5.4m and cinemas £1.35m.
The council’s capital programme will provide £23m; £6m from fundraising; £5m from the Arts Council and £6.75m from other council funding sources.