Venue: Virtual (via Zoom)
Contact: Ian Gourlay (01438) 242703 Email: email@example.com
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors David Cullen and Jody Hanafin.
There were no declarations of interest.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Environment & Economy Select Committee held on 22 September 2020.
It was RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting of the Environment & Economy Select Committee meeting held on 22 September 2020 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
To consider, make any necessary amendments to and agree the Committee’s scoping document for the review into the Economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Stevenage and the local economy and the Council’s response.
The Committee agreed the draft scope of the review as presented to them with the following changes and additions:
The Chair indicated that he proposed an additional issue be added to the focus of the review, namely that the review should assess the impact of the work that the Council and its partners are doing in response to the pandemic to enhance the wellbeing of the local workforce, the business community and the people of Stevenage.
The Committee agreed to look at the question of what has been the economic impact of the pandemic on women.
The Committee agreed to include addressing the issue of matching the skills and aspirations of young people who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic to the businesses that might thrive and grow post the pandemic.
Cllr Simon Speller offered to head up a sub group with Cllrs Adam Mitchell and Maureen McKay to look at the initiatives to address young people, specifically those who may not get picked up by the more traditional outreaches of schools and the County Council and to look at engaging with outreach teams from local employers to promote STEM subjects and opportunities in secondary schools in Stevenage.
Cllr Loraine Rossati agreed to look into the effect of the pandemic on women assisted by an appropriate officer and Cllr Sandra Barr agreed to look into the work that North Herts College are doing with non-vocational studies and students that do not have clear employment pathways, and it was suggested that a relevant representative of North Herts College be invited as a witness.
The Chair indicated that he wanted 2 witness interview sessions, the first on 13 January with a focus internally with Executive Members and Council officers and then the second on a further date (yet to be determined) with external witnesses from local businesses and citizens affected by the pandemic.
The 13 January session should be with the Leader of the Council, the Executive Portfolio Holder for Economy, Enterprise and Transport, Cllr Lloyd Briscoe, the Strategic Director Finance, Strategic Director Environment, Assistant Director Planning and Regulatory and the Business Relationship Manager. The Strategic Director, Tom Pike agreed to meet up with the Chair and the Scrutiny Officer to map out which officers are dealing with the specific responses to the Economic response to the pandemic and therefore who it would be best to speak to.
For external witnesses the Committee were recommended by the Vice-Chair to speak to a charity called Setpoint Hertfordshire who are based in Stevenage and they visit schools to promote STEM subjects, Helen Spencer was suggested as a contact to interview. Youth Connexions would also be invited for their work with hard to reach young people, Judith Sutton was suggested as a good contact. It was suggested that a representative of a trade union should be included in the list of witnesses.
Regarding equalities and diversity issues it was recognised that many of the characteristic groups have been affected economically and psychologically by the ... view the full decision text for item 3.
HERTFORDSHIRE LOCAL ENTERPRISE PARTNERSHIP (LEP) HERTS RECOVERY PLAN
To receive a presentation from Adam Wood, Hertfordshire LEP on the Herts LEP Recovery Plan.
The Committee received a presentation from Adam Wood, Head of Infrastructure & Regeneration Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) regarding the Hertfordshire Recovery Plan, rebuilding the Hertfordshire and Stevenage Economy.
The presentation covered a range of issues including the extent of the economic impact so far on the County and Stevenage; unemployment figures; furlough take up; remote working; what actions the LEP has taken; the economic recovery plans principles and framework and finally the economic recovery activities.
The potential job losses in Hertfordshire are between 80,000 to 100,000 but could change as the situation is constantly changing; the unemployment figures for the County and Stevenage which were historically low pre the pandemic but had seen a rise of over 200% in the County from 1.9% to 5.2% with Stevenage being slightly lower than UK average but slightly higher than the County average with 2.6 to 6.4% from March to May 2020.
The number of workers who are able to work from home was directly affected by the type of employment sector they came from with 70% of professionals being able to work from home down to sectors such as hospitality, retail, construction and utilities, who needed to carry on their role in a physical place.
The LEP were focusing on four strands of response to the economic impact of the pandemic, the primary one being supporting the Hertfordshire Economic Recovery Plan as well as continuing the Hertfordshire Growth Board, supporting local initiatives already in train such as Stevenage Town Investment Plan (TIP)/Town Deal and the creation of Catalyst South
The LEP had responded by organising the County wide Economic Recovery Group, Getting Building Fund for shovel ready projects which Stevenage has several, and ministerial roundtable discussions.
The LEP has also unlocked a £3.28M Business Support Package and has developed an overarching Recovery Plan Framework and has a Recovery Plan Activities; these include 3 recovery packages and 2 transformational programmes:
The LEP would be supporting the event co-sponsored by the Council and the Hertfordshire Opportunities Portal on 1st December – Generation Stevenage which is targeting 1,000 young people to meet on line with local employers, with a view to finding out what job opportunities these employers are currently offering.
For the first time in a generation the focus would have to shift from just looking at the quality of jobs created in an area to now focus on the number of jobs available. However, the fundamentals for a Herts wide and Stevenage recover and growth remain good because of the areas geographical position to London and the presence of existing high quality industries.
There will be a need for short term action to cover the potential 80,000 to 100,000 job losses in Hertfordshire but there was still a need for long term structural change for better growth to focus on jobs in emerging low carbon green industries to address the climate emergency as well as fairer growth to provide jobs.
Following Adam’s presentation Members asked Adam a series of questions ranging from ... view the full decision text for item 4.
To receive a presentation from Mena Caldbeck, SBC Business Relationship Manager, on the impact of Covid-19 on economic development in Stevenage and the Council’s response.
The Committee received a presentation from the Council’s Business Relationship Manager, Mena Caldbeck, on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on economic development in Stevenage and on the Council’s response.
The presentation covered a wide range of data this included:
· A snapshot of national economic data regarding the effect of the pandemic
· Government Support Measures including small business grant; discretionary grant; retail, hospitality & leisure business rate relief; job retention scheme; self-employment income support scheme; bounce back loan scheme; business interruption loan scheme; time to pay scheme; VAT deferral; deferral of self-assessment payment; Kickstart Scheme (work placement for 16-24 year olds); flexibility to pay back loans; support to stop evictions
· Analysis of a local business survey that was undertaken in August 2020 with 145 businesses completing the survey, including micro, SME’s & large businesses from all sectors
· The Survey provided information on the following areas: what were businesses current concerns; numbers furloughed; self-employed; agency workers; businesses returning to full staff numbers; how local businesses were accessing government support measures; what adaptations businesses had made to their business during the pandemic
· Part of the survey had been to ask businesses what they thought should be the key priorities for the Council with regard to supporting the business community
Members raised questions and comments covering a range of issues which the Business Relationship Manager responded to:
· what particular skills, upskilling and retraining can the Borough Council do to help the local workforce?
· What can the Council and its partners like CVS & CAB do to help deliver practical solutions to change people’s lives if that person has been made redundant or can’t find employment?
· How many of the Government support measures that were referred to in the presentation are administered by the Council? The Strategic Director Finance offered to circulate to the Committee the latest Member dashboard that details all of the schemes that the Council is involved in administering.
· What mechanisms are there for smaller businesses to take on traineeships for young people and apprenticeships, if they have to take on 30 new employees to qualify for the £1.5K to £2K payments?
It was RESOLVED:
(1) That the presentation be noted; and
(2) That the Strategic Director Finance would circulate to the Committee the latest Member dashboard that details all of the schemes that the Council is involved in administering to help businesses and individuals during the pandemic.
In line with the Scoping document various background reports and documents were identified as being helpful to Members undertaking the review and these are provided for information. These include:
· Extracts from the June and September Medium Term Financial Strategy providing a national perspective – Appendix 1
· HM Treasury Chancellors support for businesses 22 Oct 2020 & two Local Government Futures email updates (April and June 2020) – Appendix 2
The background documents to support the review were noted.
URGENT PART 1 BUSINESS
To consider any Part 1 business accepted by the Chair as urgent.
The Chair accepted a Part 1 urgent business to update the Committee on the Committee’s work programme.
Regarding the Neighbourhood Centres Review the Scrutiny Officer agreed to contact Committee Members to invite them to send any updates they have for the review resulting from their particular ward Neighbourhood engagement meetings.
EXCLUSION OF PUBLIC AND PRESS
To consider the following motions –
1. That under Section 100(A) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as described in paragraphs1 – 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as amended by Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006.
2. That Members consider the reasons for the following reports being in Part II and determine whether or not maintaining the exemption from disclosure of the information contained therein outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
URGENT PART II BUSINESS
To consider any Part II business accepted by the Chair as urgent.