Report of the Executive Manager – Transformation.
The Service Manager – Transformation, delivered a presentation to support the report of the Council’s Wider Approach to Assisting Economic Recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Council’s and Partner’s plans to mitigate its impact on the local economy.
The Service Manager – Transformation, informed the Group that the D2N2 Growth Hub had carried out a survey in April 2020, asking businesses how they had been effected by Covid-19. To date they have received 780 responses and from these, 98% of businesses said Covid-19 was affecting their business, this included a decrease in sales/bookings, cash flow and staff in isolation or furloughed. Those businesses reporting the worst impact tended to be new and smaller businesses who operate in a business to consumer environment, and those that operate at a local level. The sectors experiencing the greatest impact are hospitality, arts and entertainment, recreation, wholesale and retail.
The D2N2 Survey asked businesses, what would be of most help to their business; the top answers were financial support and business planning. The respondents were also concerned about furloughed staff where in some cases this was over 50% of their employees.
The Service Manager – Transformation, provided statistics from the Midlands Engine report on the retail sector, stating that footfall had fallen to 20% of its 2019 levels and remains below 40%. A research by AL Marketing found that people were nervous about shopping again and were less willing to go to a city and therefore local town centres may benefit from the change in shopping habits.
The Economic Growth Officer continued with the presentation and provided the Group with an update of the support the Council and its Partners had provided to businesses so far.
The Economic Growth Officer informed the Group that a dedicated web page had been set up providing support and advice to local businesses, the page has seen over 12,178 visits since it was set up at the end of March. In addition, a separate page on the Rushcliffe Business Partnership (RBP) website has been created, which has seen over 3084 visits since early April. The Communications Team and Economic Growth Intern, using Social Media platforms have played an active role in promoting what information is available to help support businesses quickly. This included:
· Small business, retail and hospitality grants
· Discretionary Grant Scheme
· Virtual networking sessions with Rushcliffe Business Partnership and local trading groups
· Ask the Expert webinars
· D2N2 Growth Hub webinars
The Economic Growth Officer continued to explain what support the Council has provided as the release of lockdown and Government guidelines have progressed. These include, the grant finding portal which has enabled businesses to search for funding and support available to them. Support for reopening of our local markets at Bingham and West Bridgford, which have opened successfully and are doing well. The Council has also provided resources on the website including signage and Covid-19 secure guidance.
The Economic Growth Team have also emailed many businesses in the Borough, asking whether they require any additional support with opening and these have been followed up with calls and visits from the Economic Growth Team and Environmental Health Officers.
The Borough has been allocated £106,208 from the Reopening High Streets Safely funding. Eligible activities for this funding includes support to develop an action plan for how to safely reopen local economies, communications and public information activity, business facing awareness raising activity and temporary public realm changes to ensure that reopening of high street retail can be managed successfully and safely. The Transformation Service Manager talked through some of the options currently being explored.
The Economic Growth Officer advised, that going forward the Economic Growth Team would continue to review data and listen to businesses and respond as required. The Council is also keen to develop a green economic recovery, and will be working with colleagues across the county on this.
The Chairman highlighted the area for concern in respect of potential youth unemployment, and those currently or soon to be entering the labour market who will be facing high levels of competition from people with more experience and the limited number of jobs that will be available. He also noted that young people are also over represented in the sectors of work that have been forced to close down during the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact of reduction in or closure of the furlough scheme. The Service Manager – Transformation advised that as part of the Nottinghamshire Local Resilience Forum structure, an economy cell has been set up with representatives from Nottinghamshire County Council, District Council’s, DWP and the D2N2 LEP to support the initial priorities of which youth unemployment is one. In addition the Service Manager – Transformation informed the Group that the Borough Council had restarted the Employment and Skills Group and Positive Futures/YouNG had introduced its summer programme aimed at young people.
The Group asked if more could be achieved using the European Funding for Reopening the High Street Safely, and whether businesses could be supported more directly. The Service Manager – Transformation explained there were some challenges as the fund criteria is restrictive and not aimed at specific businesses.
The Group raised their concerns regarding the local Lockdown in Leicester and what the Council’s plans are if we were to get a second wave. The Executive Manager – Communities advised that plans were being discussed across the County for dealing with local lockdown and public protection and would provide the link to the County Council webpage.
The Group expressed their appreciation on how the Council had quickly adapted and redeployed staff to keep the Council’s essential services and operations going during the pandemic, and thanked officers for their hard work throughout this unprecedented time in keeping businesses informed and supporting them opening as the lockdown is slowly released.
It was RESOLVED that
a) the group note the report and the work completed by officers
b) the Group would consider additional idea and guidance on the planned work to support the economic recovery of Rushcliffe