Ambitious plans to build back the West of England region have been revealed by the West of England Recovery Taskforce, chaired by Regional Mayor Tim Bowles.
The West of England recovery plan outlines how the region’s creativity and diversity will be harnessed to protect and secure jobs, while building back greener and creating opportunities for all residents to share in the recovery.
The publication of the plan follows a meeting of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) Committee, when an extra £4.4 million was committed for recovery work, which nearly doubles the figure allocated in June, and takes the total investment in our region’s businesses and skills to over £100m over the next four years. This includes business support, skills and employment initiatives.
Securing a green recovery, improving access to digital skills and creating opportunities for are priorities within the plan.
- £1.9m is committed for the Low Carbon Challenge Fund to support organisations to review energy use and renewable resources.
- £2m will increase access to digital skills. This builds on WECA’s recent investment of £0.5m for the Institute of Technology that will help develop digital skills, vital for recovery from the pandemic.
- An additional £0.5m for the cultural and creative industries, in addition to current activities including Creative Scale-up.
The recovery plan includes measures to help businesses adapt to the new economic landscape and improve resilience, as well as support for residents to develop new skills, training and employment opportunities. This builds on support offered to businesses throughout the pandemic via the Growth Hub and successful schemes such as Future Bright helping residents to gain new skills and find employment.
In addition to the extra £4.4m, the committee also agreed to allocate £2.7m funding for South Bristol Workspace to further expand coverage of the region’s business recovery programmes, subject to match funding and planning consent.
West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles, said: “Covid-19 is having a huge impact on our region and all of us who live here. We came into this as a leading regional economy, and we can build on the progress we have made so that every community benefits from extra investment and new opportunities as we emerge from the pandemic.
“This plan has been created and informed by more than 180 local experts in industry, education and our communities that I asked to be part our Regional Recovery Taskforce. This work is just beginning, and now we have a road to follow.
“I’d like to thank everyone involved for all their hard work in creating this plan for recovery and renewal and encourage us to continue working in collaboration work to make it a reality, communicating clearly to our residents the work that is happening on the ground.”
The recovery plan was put together by the Economic Recovery Taskforce, which is made up of regional business leaders and council members and was consulted on by over 180 businesses and community groups across the region.
Steve West, Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is a strong plan which requires us to be innovative, creative and responsive as we learn to adapt, recover and reset our changing world. We’ve worked with our LEP and the wider business community to develop this recovery plan – involving businesses across all sectors, as well as voluntary and community groups. We’ve also listened to thousands of individuals and businesses across the region, to ensure our recovery is inclusive and representative.
“We’re all facing the challenge of the pandemic. However, the strength and diversity of our economy means that we are in a strong place to meet this challenge and build back better – seizing the opportunity to accelerate our plans to deliver clean and inclusive growth.”
Margot Day, a member of the Economic Recovery Taskforce, said: “This plan sets out how we need to work together as a region, to build back better and greener.
“We will capitalise on the West of England’s ingenuity, creativity and diversity to create good jobs and a high quality of life for all our residents, whilst achieving sustained reductions in emissions and responding to the climate, ecological and biodiversity emergency that we face.”
The plan sets out five key ambitions:
- Rebuilding business, helping new and existing businesses to survive and thrive; to safeguard existing, and create new jobs
- Getting residents back into jobs that pay above the living wage and offer employment security, through training and work to match skills to opportunities
- Strengthen inclusion, preventing further widening of inequalities and building an inclusive economy where everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential
- A green recovery, using changes in behaviour brought about by the pandemic to accelerate transition to net zero carbon
- Renewing places, creating greener, healthier, more vibrant places to live and work.
- Expanding the region’s business support offer to help businesses to adapt and survive, including redundancy support, trading online, training and workforce development.
- Driving job creation through investment in new regional innovation projects, to address the climate emergency, health and equality of opportunity.
- Developing a regional Employment and Skills Opportunities Portal to help unemployed residents find new jobs, support and training opportunities.
- Addressing youth unemployment with a regional apprenticeship support service.
- Growing the Low Carbon Challenge Fund through a Green Business Grant programme and Local Energy Schemes
- An innovative town centre re-structuring programme, building on the increased need for ‘local liveability’
- Development of a Regional Tourism Zone and new Cultural, Creative and Digital Development programme
The full plan can be found at: www.westofengland-ca.gov.uk/west-of-england-regional-recovery-taskforce-our-recovery-plan