David Ralph, HotSW LEP CEO
Now that we’ve had confirmation of the rolling three-week lockdown, in this newsletter I’ll be talking about what we’ve been doing in responding to COVID-19 and outline what we might be looking at as part of a recovery plan.
We welcome the support packages for businesses and employees that the Government has introduced, and that they’ve been listening to feedback from LEPs and others to address the gaps.
In Friday’s news an additional loan extension scheme for businesses with a turnover over £45m has been announced; and particularly welcome in HotSW is the £10m support fund for the fishing industry which had previously been exempt due to boats not being classed as business premises; whilst positive we believe more is needed on supporting ports and we will continue to press for this. The extension to the furloughing scheme until the end of June is also very welcome.
To make sense out of all these new packages, we’ve been helping businesses through the Growth Hub, which has seen a 300% increase in calls to its helpline and its website visits. The Growth Hub also provides guidance on business adaptation and resources for digital upskilling. To increase the capacity and scope of the Growth Hub, the LEP has invested an additional £150,000 from its strategic investment fund which will pay for additional staff and extend the scope of the advice to include expertise from the local Businesses Representative Organisations (BROs).
We’ve been meeting weekly with Local Authorities and BROs as part of the Heart of the South West Economic Resilience and Opportunities Group (HEROG) to capture the key concerns for our area’s economy and identify interventions. The report goes directly to the Department for Business, Energy, Innovation and Skills and is therefore a quick and effective route by which we communicate with Government to help then shape their policy.
Significant economic factors for the Heart of the South West have been the immediate impact on the tourism and hospitality industry, which followed hard on the closure of Flybe. It’s vital for our region and the country that food production and supply is kept up, but the market is suffering from pubs, cafes and restaurants being closed. Added to that our area’s reliance on SMEs makes our economy particularly vulnerable.
There are some interventions to these issues that we can deliver ourselves through our strong partnerships, and there are others that require Government support to address gaps. For these we’ve been writing to key Ministers and working with our local MPs to help us drive those messages and we’ll report back on our progress in due course as we receive feedback and commitment from Government on our asks.
A weekly summary of the report to BEIS and the headlines from the HEROG meeting will be published on our website so that our stakeholders can see what the LEP and partners have been doing and what’s been said to our MPs and Government
Whilst we remain in the midst of managing the health and economic crisis; some attention is now beginning to be directed towards an exit strategy and the role of LEPs and the wider business community in delivering this.
In the coming weeks there’ll be updates on our sector development work – such as Nuclear, Marine and Photonics – which are all still gathering momentum behind the scenes, as now more than ever it’s important to look to our economies strengths in preparation for when we can get back to a new kind of normal.
Before the pandemic, we were in the latter stages of agreeing our Local Industrial Strategy with Government; so following a thorough analysis of the impacts of the lockdown, this creates a blueprint for our long-term economic recovery opportunities to be addressed.
We’ll be bringing news on the delivery of our capital investment programme which is under review due to all but essential construction work having been halted. There’ll also progress on our Digital Delivery programme to improve broadband and mobile coverage, and we’ll refocus our project pipeline for new funding packages that will replace EU and Growth Deal funds.
We’ll be issuing regular news stories on what we and others are doing to address the current crisis – there are a couple of good news stories here – and to keep up to date follow our social media channels: @HeartofSWLEP on Twitter and our LinkedIn site @HeartoftheSouthWestLEP
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Webinars to help businesses
We’ve done a round-up of useful webinars being offered to all businesses to support them during these challenging times. Sign up and learn more to help your business.Read more