The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property and the Economic Growth Officer delivered a presentation in respect of Covid-19 Business Recovery, which provided the Group with an update on the work being done to support businesses to recover from the impact of the Covid pandemic.
The Group were provided with statistical data in respect of unemployment claims, job vacancies and business closures and were advised that the D2N2 LEP had provided an analysis of Rushcliffe’s labour market demands, which showed there were 800 unique jobs advertised between January and July 2022.
The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property explained that during the pandemic, the Economic Growth Team had monitored the vacancy rates in our main towns and villages and reported that the majority of the town centres had very few or no empty units, with only a couple in West Bridgford, Bingham and Radcliffe on Trent. It was noted that in August the occupancy level at Council owned industrial units was at 100% and the new yet to be opened Bingham Enterprise Centre already had four interested parties.
The Economic Growth Officer informed the Group of some of the activities that had been delivered using the Welcome Back Funding from the European Regional Development Fund to support the safe reopening of our town centres.
Some of this funding went to the following activities:
· The appointment of a temporary town centre consultant from September 2021 to June 2022.
· Enhanced and additional events in West Bridgford and some of the larger towns and villages
· Improvements to the visual appearance of town centres
· Promotion of job vacancies on the Council’s Social Media platforms
· Ongoing communications campaigns e.g. Shop Local Shop Safe
· Exploring opportunities for Digital promotion of high streets e.g. West Bridgford Way
· Rushcliffe Business Partnership networking events in West Bridgford and Ruddington
· Continue to build on relationships with high street businesses – retail forums and WhatsApp groups
· Rushcliffe Big Business Carbon Club established to encourage larger businesses to act as champions to deliver a greener economic recovery
It was noted that the Economic Growth Team work closely with external agencies to sign post businesses and tailor support as required, primarily the D2N2 Growth Hub offering a range of business support and advice.
The Economic Growth Officer informed the Group of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), and Rushcliffe’s allocation of £2,571,46 to be spent over 3 years (2022/23 to 2024/25) as follows:
2022/23 - £312,071
2023/24 - £624,141
2024/25 - £1,635,250
The Economic Growth Officer advised the Group that an investment plan had been submitted on 1 August and the funding can be used from April 2022 to support activities as prescribed within the investment support priorities of the UKSPF which are, Community and Place, Business Support and People and Skills (People and Skills from 2024/25).
It was noted that lead local authorities across Nottinghamshire are encouraged to work with local partners to deliver on the UK Governments wider commitment to level up all parts of the UK by delivering the levelling up objectives. The primary goal of the UKSPF being to build pride in place and increase life chances across the UK.
The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property advised that the Council’s desires are focussed on local projects that support the delivery of the Council’s corporate plan priorities:
· Quality of Life
· Efficient Services
· Sustainable Growth
· The Environment to Rushcliffe
The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property informed the Group of the recently announced Rural England Prosperity Funding and the allocation for Rushcliffe of £596,193 from April 2023 to March 2025. It was explained that this fund provides capital funding to support new and existing rural businesses and to support new and improved community infrastructure. It was noted that this fund was for projects in rural areas and that local rural partners would be consulted to deliver the fund.
The Group were advised that the Economic Growth Team have five key areas of focus over the coming months to ensure ongoing support is provided for local businesses.
· UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF)
· Rushcliffe Business Partnership
· Business Support – Chapel Lane
· High Street Support
· Growth Boards
The Group commended officers on their continued support to local businesses. However, it was felt that the UK was no longer in a pandemic and that moving forward the Council should be responding to the economic climate and growth, including rural communities, start-up businesses, industrial land allocations and promoting these areas to encourage businesses to provide local jobs for a local economy.
The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property explained that much of what had been suggested would be picked up by the UKSPF work. In addition, it was noted that the six strategic sites, including industrial allocations will be promoted when appropriate.
Councillors asked specific questions relating to the Community and Place investment priority and whether this would include some community involvement. The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property explained that the Leader of the Council was promoting the funding opportunities through the Town and Parish Council Forum. The Chairman explained that the Rural Fund had only recently been announced and that it was important to priorities what is relevant to Rushcliffe and what provides the best value for money.
Councillors suggested that transparency is required in respect to funding allocations and decisions, and that information needs to be communicated to Councillors and the Business Community so they are kept informed of the projects and objectives for delivering the funding. The Service Manager – Economic Growth and Property advised that stakeholders would be involved.
It was RESOLVED that:
a) The Growth and Development Scrutiny Group endorse the proposed future activity and identified and supports the rural economy
b) The Group recognises and compliments the efforts of officers supporting local businesses