REGENERATION firm Riverside Inverclyde is set to be mothballed as part of swingeing council cutbacks.

Proposals have been tabled that would see staff and operations transferred to the local authority.

The organisation would continue, but only as a shell company.

RI was set up in 2007 and is owned and financed by Inverclyde Council and Scottish Enterprise.

The organisation had an initial 10-year lifespan, which was extended in 2017.

With funding having dried up in recent years following successive budget cuts from the UK and Scottish governments and the council facing an estimated £5m financial black hole in 2019/20, local authority chiefs are exploring all avenues to save money and have now turned their attentions to the urban regeneration company.

The move still has to be rubber-stamped but it is understood the RI board is in favour.

Councillors were briefed about the proposals at a recent meeting, although discussions took place in private - a decision that was criticised by some elected representatives.

An RI spokesperson said: "The RI board of directors considered the RI review paper presented by its member organisations, Inverclyde Council and Scottish Enterprise, at their meeting on Thursday December 13. "The board have agreed to meet in the new year to consider the options, against the test of what would be in the best interests of RI as an organisation with charitable status."

The company employs around eight members of staff and is understood to be making money, but sizeable savings could be made by cutting overheads, including closing the company's HQ at Ladyburn Business Centre in Pottery Street.

Employees would be absorbed into the council but potentially on reduced terms and on fixed-term contracts instead of permanent ones.

A council spokesman said: "The current joint operating plan ends in 2019 and has already been extended by two years from its original completion date of 2017. "From day one RI was always envisioned to be a life limited organisation.

"On that basis and in light of the increasing reliance on delivering project work on behalf of the council and the depleted public funding available to deliver physical regeneration, the operations of RI have been reviewed during this past year. "A preferred option has been agreed by Inverclyde Council and Scottish Enterprise and presented to the RI board, which is currently considering the report. "It wouldn't be appropriate to discuss in detail the proposals at this early stage because, by their nature, they relate to the job roles of individuals and it is important that until a process is in place that staff are fully supported.

"The priority throughout all of this is to ensure that regeneration is promoted fully in Inverclyde using the best mechanisms available. "While RI has delivered some very positive regeneration projects, Inverclyde requires a clear vision of what is the best way to deliver council-led project work and keeping the regeneration momentum going. "We would hope through positive and constructive engagement to be in a position to announce more detail in the new year."

RI got off to a slow start, missing several key jobs targets despite spending millions of pounds of public money but it has fared better in recent years with successes such as the award-winning £5m Gourock town centre revamp and one-way system, the £4m Greenock Custom House restoration and construction of Kelburn Business Park in Port Glasgow.

The company is credited with bringing the likes of Toshiba to Inverclyde and helping several small firms get off the ground, such as The Start-Up Drinks Lab in Port Glasgow.