Since being tasked by the Prime Minister to lead the West of England’s regional recovery, I have worked closely with a regional Recovery Taskforce, made up of senior figures from industry, education and local government, to plan for our economic recovery from the impact of Covid-19.
I know that our economic recovery will be led by our region’s businesses and industry who, before the pandemic, were thriving and providing many excellent jobs for residents. On our part, the Combined Authority will use its devolved powers to support our businesses secure jobs, train residents in the skills they need, and invest in the innovative and sustainable infrastructure of the future.
My top priority is to preserve our historically low rates of unemployment as far as possible. I have already expanded the Combined Authority’s Future Bright programme, and am using devolved control over the Adult Education Budget to give all residents impacted by the pandemic access to coaching, careers advice and training in the skills needed to find jobs locally. And I want to go further still, developing a regional ‘’All Age Access Hub’ to support all residents regardless of background to find training opportunities and new jobs.
Through the Recovery Taskforce, the Combined Authority has further strengthened its relationship with regional businesses, enabling more dynamic collaboration and coordination across the region to protect jobs. I have established a Redundancy Response Initiative to support businesses experiencing large-scale redundancies re-deploy workers to employers with vacancies. I am also working closely with large employers to develop enhanced training and re-training opportunities which are aligned to in-need skills and job vacancies including in digital, construction, logistics and health and social care.
I know that strong, thriving businesses create secure jobs for our residents. To support and strengthen businesses which are facing challenges, I will once again expand the region’s business support. This latest offer will include guidance for businesses to adapt to become more digital and online, and initiatives promoting more sustainable, lower-carbon ways to do business. I will also target securing more inward investment and trade as well launching the new Business Innovation Fund, backing research, development and innovation in the region. This will be a vote of confidence in our world-leading industry and help unlock new growth and create new jobs.
Finally, I am investing now in the infrastructure we need to continue growing and thriving into the future. I am expanding the Low Carbon Challenge Fund to support local renewable energy schemes, and continuing to move ahead with my plans for the MetroWest suburban rail network, bus prioritisation and more walking and cycling lanes across the region. I will also look to secure more investment in infrastructure which will enable the construction of more housing for local residents. This will not only maintain momentum in the construction sector, but will also provide the homes we need at more affordable prices for residents.
Along with the entire global economy, the West of England is facing an economic challenge the like of which we have never seen before. However, through collaborating closely with the businesses that are so important to the prosperity of region, I am confident that we have developed a plan to support our economic recovery. We have already begun implementing it, and I will remain ambitious to maintain this momentum so that we can recover as quickly and possible and continue growing and thriving into the future.