The Head of Economic Development and Regeneration for North Worcestershire presented the Borough Level Economic Recovery Framework for the Committee’s consideration.
During the presentation of this report the following matters were highlighted for Members’ consideration:
· The framework outlined the key interventions that were proposed to support economic recovery in the Borough in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
· The framework was a live document and would be updated as circumstances changed and new projects emerged.
· The framework focused on supporting people, businesses and places.
· There were three sets of data underpinning the framework which were utilised by partner organisations, including the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.
· This data revealed that the trend was for an increase in the number of people claiming out of work benefits during the year.
· The number of job vacancies had reduced during the year so vacancies were competitive.
· There were 15,500 people in Redditch on furlough by the end of July 2020 which was 4% above the average rate in England. There was a risk that at the end of the furlough scheme some of these people would be made redundant.
· Immediate concerns were to ensure that support was provided to people who had been made redundant or were at risk of being made redundant to secure employment.
· In the medium to long-term the focus needed to be on ensuring that people had the right skills needed to secure jobs. Increasingly, this would include having the right skills to work in digital industries.
· Young people leaving education also needed to be supported to develop the right skills to ensure that they could secure employment in the future.
· The North Worcestershire Economic Development Team could support local businesses by signposting them to available grant funding that would help those businesses to continue to operate.
· Businesses could also receive support from local growth hubs in the areas supported by the Local Enterprise Partnerships.
· In both growth hub areas there had been a reported increase in demand for space for start-up companies.
· Many companies had identified opportunities to innovate during the Covid-19 pandemic and the North Worcestershire Economic Development Unit could provide support to enable businesses to do this.
· There was an ongoing priority to promote inward investment into the business sector within Redditch.
· Place making had a key role to play in local economic recovery. The regeneration of Redditch town centre could therefore play an important role in the economic recovery of the town.
· There were very ambitious plans in place for the regeneration of Redditch town centre and key partners would need to provide support through private sector investment in order to deliver on these plans.
· The report had recorded that a key decision would be required. However, Members were in fact being asked to make a non-key decision.
After the report had been presented Members discussed the following points in detail:
· The impact that Covid-19 had had on the local economy and the action that would need to be taken to ensure the planned recovery.
· The number of employees in Redditch who had been placed on furlough and the implications for the town should a significant proportion of these people be made redundant once the furlough scheme ended.
· The support that had already been provided by the Council to large businesses in the town, including signposting these companies to available sources of support.
· The success that the Borough had had traditionally in supporting large businesses.
· The smaller number of small and micro businesses in Redditch compared to other districts in Worcestershire and the need to support further initiatives at this scale in the future.
· The value of socially responsible companies and the potential to encourage people to establish these businesses.
· The role of Councillors as key partners in the Borough.
· The £25 million founding that had been announced for town centre regeneration and the potential for partner organisations to secure additional funding for Redditch.
· The increase in Redditch in the number of young people aged over 16 claiming out of work benefits, which had grown from 1,550 in February 2020 to 3,355 in August 2020.
· The decrease in Redditch in the number of job vacancies by 35% between March and September 2020.
· The date by which the website for the Town’s Fund Board would be available to access. Officers confirmed that a response would be provided in respect of this matter outside the meeting but it was anticipated that a website would be available to access shortly.
· The Town Investment Plan and when this would be available for Members to view. Officers explained that a specialist engagement consultant had been procured to undertake consultation involving workshops, interviews and online surveys. This process would start in November 2020.
· The regeneration plans for the town centre and the date by which a masterplan would be available to view. The Committee was advised that this was at an early stage and a consortium was in the process of being appointed which would carry forward the work. A consultation process would form part of the consortium’s work.
· The redevelopment of Matchborough and Winyates District Centres and the date by which plans for this redevelopment process would be available to consider. The Committee was informed that Officers had been working through the options but nothing would be confirmed until further discussion with Members.
· The form of consultation that would be undertaken with interested stakeholders for these projects. Officers explained that due to the Covid-19 pandemic consultation would inevitably need to be held online.
· The approach that would be adopted to consultation. Members were advised that the organisation that had been appointed to undertake this consultation work was highly experienced and would adopt a scientific approach.
· The composition of the Town’s Fund Board and the extent to which the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) had been consulted in the Board’s work. The Committee was informed that two representatives of the VCS had been appointed to the Board.
the report and the Redditch Local Economic Recovery Framework (2020-2023) be endorsed.