An ambitious plan to get Gloucestershire’s economy back on its feet in the wake of Covid-19 has been launched by Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership, GFirst LEP.
GFirst LEP is one of 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships across the country. Launched by the Government in 2011, these partnerships between local authorities and local private sector businesses have played a central role in determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities to drive economic growth and job creation, improve infrastructure and raise workforce skills.
Between 2015-16, the government committed £12 billion to local areas in England, 0f this, £9.1 billion has already been allocated through Growth Deals negotiated between central government and individual LEPs.
Back in 2014, GFirst LEP produced a Strategic Economic Plan which set ambitious targets against the backdrop of a county in recovery following the global economic crisis, with productivity having stagnated during the previous 10 years relative to the rest of the UK. Off the back of the plan, the LEP secured £101.696 million of funding from Government.
GFirst LEP’s new recovery plan, which builds on its 2014 strategy, contains an unprecedented package of interventions to get businesses up and trading again, restore business, consumer and community confidence, and offer support to those who do lose their jobs.
The pandemic brought the economy to a standstill, with thousands of businesses unable to trade and 89,000 workers in the county placed on furlough.
Now as the lockdown is eased, a series of interventions are needed to help businesses and individuals hit by the economic impact of the virus.
David Owen, CEO, GFirst LEP, said: “The county is commencing on a long, complex and difficult journey in a world that has been turned upside down in just a few months.
“We have produced three reports in total, the first document is an Economic Impact Report produced by economic development advisers Hardisty Jones outlining the likely impact on the county, districts, and business sectors. This analysis was to assist GFirst LEP develop a sector based, economic recovery plan that would help each of the district authorities in Gloucestershire to develop place-based recovery plans.
“Three scenarios are presented: worst-case, middle-case, and best-case. GVA modelling of these scenarios shows that the county’s Gross Value Added (GVA) – the measure of the value of goods and services produced, is forecast to fall in the second quarter of 2020 to between 71 per cent (£2.9 billion) and 91 per cent (£3.7 billion) of pre-crisis quarterly levels (£4.1 billion).
“Employment initially falls fastest in the middle scenario, to 92 per cent of the pre-crisis level in Q3 2020, a loss of 26,000 jobs, but it then starts to recover. In the worst-case scenario employment falls more in the last quarter of 2020 and into the first quarter of 2021, after current Government support ceases, to 85 per cent of the pre-crisis level, a loss of 49,000 jobs from the pre-crisis level of employment.”
“The second document is a Sector Analysis Report which has been derived primarily from work by the LEP’s Business Groups and business surveys conducted through our Growth Hub network.”
“And finally, the Recovery Plan – working closely with all our stakeholders from the private, public and voluntary sector, we have produced an extensive range of potential interventions that we think will get the county back on track.”
Examples of these interventions include a “Think Gloucestershire” promotional campaign, encouraging staycations within the county, supporting local shops and restaurants, and encouraging businesses to support or buy from local businesses wherever possible.
Recruiting Sector-specialist Business Advisers for the Growth Hub Network to support these sectors eg cyber/digital and manufacturing.
A campaign to promote Gloucestershire as a ‘Work from Anywhere’ county. This will help to progress its ambitions to be a county that attracts workers and younger people. “Blended Working”, a mixture of working from home combined with time at a co-working site, will continue to become an accepted and expected form of working. This ambition will need to be supported by the acceleration of broadband delivery.
Support the expected growth in Start-Up businesses. It might seem a contradiction in terms, but during recession and periods of high unemployment, it is usual to see a growth in start-up businesses. This pattern is likely to repeat itself during this recession and possibly to a high degree as working from home becomes more widely spread. Existing provision of business support for Start-Up businesses should be reviewed with a view to ensuring online provision meets the need to support business growth in this area.
GFirst LEP is seeking confirmation from central Government for large infrastructure projects where funding was committed back in March. In the Chancellor’s March Budget statement, more than £27 billion was committed to transport infrastructure between 2020 and 2025, with nearly £1 billion committed to three major schemes in Gloucestershire.
These included commitments to fund; the A417 ‘Missing Link’ scheme to build a new 3.4 mile dual carriageway linking the M4 and the M5, creating an ‘all-ways’ Junction 10 of the M5 and work to improve Junction 9 at Tewkesbury.
Building responses from the ground up, that exploit opportunities in sectors such as; advanced engineering, cyber tech, digital business transformation, agri-tech and green technology will form a cornerstone of the county’s economic recovery and ensure that people ‘Think Gloucestershire’.
To read the full Recovery Plan, visit https://www.gfirstlep.com/news/recovery/