PROPOSALS have been approved to recruit a managing operator to oversee the running of a digital hub at the Wellsprings centre in Bolton town centre.

This comes after Bolton Council secured £22.9m of investment through the Towns Fund to develop a Town Deal in October 2020.

Funding is expected to be spread across four projects - a Bolton Library and Museum upgrade, The Wellsprings upgrade and refurbishment, public realm improvements, and Bolton Market improvements.

Paul Whittingham, the borough's economic development assistant director, said in a cabinet report: "Although the council wishes to seek a managing operator to secure occupants, oversee the day-today management of the Wellsprings and provide the wraparound support to businesses, the council wishes to retain its ownership of the building and have some influence on the outputs and outcomes the project will provide, as well as the types of businesses that will take up space in the building.”

The managing operator is expected to ensure an open and transparent tender process is undertaken, ensuring value for money.

This could mean that the council pays a fee to the managing operator.

But the project also has the potential to generate an income stream for the council, through a profit share with the managing operator.

One of the concerns Mr Whittingham raised in the proposal, was that without having a managing operator working alongside the current contractor, that “the council runs the risk of fitting out and refurbishing a building to a specification that does not meet the requirements of the end user”.

He added:”The preferred delivery model is for the council to procure a managing operator that can identify and deliver a package of support to occupiers to create and grow businesses.”

Mr Whittingham has recommended the managing operator manage is carried out through a tender exercise via existing approved procurement routes.

The plan, approved by council leader Martyn Cox, will see a legally binding contract drawn up through the borough solicitor, outlining which types of business will occupy the building and specific goals that the council wants to achieve.

Detailed business cases are currently being prepared for each of the four projects, to be submitted to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, by the end of the month.