Agenda item

Covid-19 Business Recovery Update


The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property delivered a presentation to update members on the Covid 19 Business Recovery, providing members with data across the D2N2 authorities, including Furlough and self-employment claims, unemployment claims, job vacancies and business closures, as reported in June 2021.


The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property explained that Furlough and self-employment claims have been decreasing since January 2021 and unemployment has also maintained a steady decline. The latest job vacancy figures showed a 40% growth compared to the same time last year, these were mainly in the health and social care sectors as well as business, technology and administration. In respect of the impact of Covid 19 on businesses predictions state that the economy is not expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels before 2022. The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property advised that the data will continue to be monitored to look for trends and any ongoing impact of the pandemic.


The Economic Growth Officer continued the presentation providing members with information relating to the health of the Borough’s High Streets, including Bingham, Cotgrave, East Leake, Keyworth, Radcliffe on Trent, Ruddington and West Bridgford. It was reported that as of the end of August 2021, there were 10 vacant premises and 5 businesses either being developed or the business being for sale but still operating within the 7 main towns and villages across the Borough. Footfall was also measured 3 times in a day and from the same location in each town/village during January, April and August 2021. The Economic Growth Officer reported that footfall had increased since the lockdown restrictions were lifted earlier in the year, and then again most saw an increase between April and August with the exception of East Leake and Radcliffe on Trent, who showed a reduction. 


The Economic Growth Officer provided the Group with information on the progress of ongoing work being carried out by the Economic Growth team and the collaborative work with Rushcliffe Business Partnership, including virtual networking sessions and the first in person event at Trent Bridge Cricket Club on 24 September 2021. In addition, the Group were reminded  that a dedicated Covid-19 business support webpage had been created which so far has attracted around 40,000 views, providing assistance with business rate grants totalling over £35.3 million between April 2020 to May 2021.


The Economic Growth Officer advised that after the initial lockdown and using Reopening High Streets Safely Funding (RHSSF), officers delivered a number of initiatives including successful communication campaigns targeting local businesses, these included the Eat Out to Help Out, a Government led initiative, We Are Open and more recently Shop Local Shop Safe. Two consultants funded by RHSSF were employed to provide expert advice and support by way of webinars and one to one business support. In addition, the Council appointed High Street Ambassadors to support the reopening of the Boroughs high streets providing a visible presence to reassure the public and in November/December 2020 the Council developed a Rushcliffe gift voucher for residents to spend in participating businesses across the Borough. Other initiatives included, the safe reopening of outdoor markets, temporary free parking and free after 3pm in Council owned car parks and a digital grant for up to £1000 to provide high street businesses with financial support to develop their online presence.


The Economic Growth Officer advised the Group that an enhanced events programme in West Bridgford had been very successful, with the return of Taste of Rushcliffe, Proms in the Park, outdoor theatre and cinema and family fun days.


The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property in concluding informed the Group that the Officers will continue to support our town and parish councils, with spending their £10k allocation, ongoing communication campaigns, exploring opportunities to increase digital awareness and improvements to the visual appearance of town centres and promoting town centre events and retail forums. In addition, officers will continue to engage and build on relationships with local businesses and Rushcliffe Business Partnership (RBP), adding that a consultant post had been created to liaise with local businesses and parishes to develop new initiatives to support our high streets going forward.


The Chairman thanked Officers for their continuous work in supporting local communities and confirmed that he had met with the newly appointed consultant and welcomed her enthusiasm in supporting local businesses.


Members commented on the footfall figures provided in the presentation and asked how these were collated and measured, and whether they provided a true picture of how the high streets were fairing. The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property explained that footfall was measured using guidance supplied by the Welcome Back Funding (WBF) formally called the Reopening High Streets Safely Funding and was done on the same day and same time at each location and the information provided was only a snapshot.


Members asked specific question relating to the footfall in Council owned leisure centres and how these compare with privately owned ones, and whether our centres were beginning to bounce back after the restrictions. It was noted that there had been some increase in swimming activities and that the Council’s leisure provider had reported that around 70% of users had returned to the centre. However, the Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property explained that for the purpose of this report was more focused on business and high street support, the information about leisure centre was included in the updates to Cabinet, the last one of which had been in July 2021.


The Chairman asked a specific question in relation to the £35m paid out in government grants and how the Borough compared with other similar authorities in the speed in which these were paid and the amounts paid out. The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property explained that she did not have these figures to hand and would provide the group with further information in a separate update after the meeting.


The Chairman expressed his appreciation on what officers had achieved highlighting the positive list of collaborative community support and initiatives within the report, adding that the Council and officers should be proud of their efforts thus far.


It was RESOLVED that the Growth Scrutiny Group:


a)    welcome the work carried out so far to support businesses in responding to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic


b)    endorse the proposed future activity


c)     consider alternative opportunities to support businesses in Rushcliffe for future exploration by officers





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