Ambitious plans for the region’s economic recovery were discussed by the West of England Regional Recovery Taskforce yesterday (September 15).
The recovery action plan has been put together by the taskforce, led by Regional Mayor Tim Bowles, which comprises senior figures from industry, education and local government.
It sets out five ambitions:
- Rebuilding business, helping new and existing businesses to survive and thrive; to safeguard existing, and create new, jobs.
- Getting residents back into work, in jobs which 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.
West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “This is a strong and ambitious shared plan for the recovery and renewal of our region, to protect and secure jobs while avoiding the dangers of a second peak of the virus. I would like to thank everyone who has committed so much time and energy to this work – we’re a strong and innovative region so by pulling together in this way we can come back stronger.”
Over 160 businesses, education and community sector organisations gave their input, and the views of thousands more have been canvassed, to develop this action plan.
The plan will be discussed at the next meeting of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and Joint Committee on October 9. Following this it will be published, and more businesses, organisations and members of the public will be encouraged to put forward their views on the next stages.
Taskforce member Poku Osei, chief executive of Babbasa, commented: “This is an important plan that will help us rebuild. It’s important that we are inclusive and that we strengthen work that’s already happening but needs scaling up to help us face the challenges.”
Katharine Finn, senior partner at PWC, said: “We need to focus on getting young people into work and also work on inclusion; recent reports have emphasised that Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on different groups, including women.”
And Jon Reynolds, chief executive of GDS, said: “This is a strong and ambitious plan. I welcome the focus on digital and plans for full fibre broadband and 5G coverage right across our region. Affordable and high bandwidth broadband is key to future world of work, healthcare, education and play.”
WECA has already agreed a £5m fund to act as a catalyst, helping leverage in additional investment, to support taskforce recommendations. Proposals for how it will be used to support the ambitions set out in the action plan are being developed.
The recovery action plan sets out what different partners can do to help the West of England recover – including central government, WECA, local councils and the private sector. It draws on work WECA is already leading on to support businesses and individuals including:
- Thrive at Work – to help mental health in the workplace
- Business Innovation Fund – to provides SMEs with tailored support and funding to bring new products, services and processes to market
- Trading Better Online – to provide specialist support to help businesses become digitally enabled and improve their resilience and productivity
- Financial resilience – to help SMEs plan for financial resilience
- Small grants programme – small grants for business adaption, with specific support available for the tourism and hospitality sector
These services can all be accessed through the Through the West of England Growth Hub (www.wearegrowth.co.uk)
The taskforce reports to the West of England Combined Authority and the Local Enterprise Partnership. Its work covers Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire areas.
Find out more about the taskforce at https://www.westofengland-ca.gov.uk/west-of-england-regional-recovery-taskforce/