Jobs and business support at core of pandemic recovery plan
The plan shows how we will build a better future together
Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has launched a far-reaching recovery plan to regain ground lost during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has wiped some £3 billion off the value of the regional economy and doubled the number of residents on Universal Credit.
Over the last 20 years Cheshire and Warrington has become one of the fastest growing UK regional economies, with a Gross Value Added of £32.5 billion. The Recovery Plan sets out a detailed vision for getting that growth back on track with a focus in four key areas – sustainability, economic growth, inclusivity and health.
The immediate priority is the redoubling of efforts to secure Government support to deliver the HyNet project in the region, which would provide the UK’s first Hydrogen production and carbon capture and storage facility and be used to reduce carbon emissions from industry. HyNet has the potential to create around £17 billion GVA and some 5,000 North West jobs before 2025, whilst also delivering more than 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide savings per annum. The LEP is urgently seeking a contribution of £200 million out of the £800 million pledged by Government for capital funding to Carbon Capture Usage and Storage projects.
The pandemic has hit vulnerable groups the hardest, including the lowest paid and those living in more deprived areas with fewer facilities and green spaces. LEP research reveals that some 29,400 people accessed the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme during the pandemic and the number of people claiming Universal Credit has increased by over 80% since March 2020.
The LEP is leading a programme to get people back into work who found themselves unemployed as a consequence of the pandemic, working alongside key partners, such as the Department for Work and Pensions. Ensuring that every young person who wants a place on the Government’s Kickstart programme gets one is amongst the hard commitments for 2021; along with funding a programme of on-line job fairs; and providing a single on-line portal for unemployed people to access job vacancies and other support.
The Recovery Plan also identifies fast tracking further investment into the region’s innovation-based economy, building on world-class assets in energy, life science, and advanced manufacturing. The LEP is to accelerate investment in the Cheshire Science Corridor Enterprise Zone following conclusion of a £30 million borrowing facility through LEP’s local authority partners.
Other specific goals include establishing a Life Sciences sector group by June 2021 to develop a plan to reinforce Cheshire and Warrington as one of the best locations in the world for medicines discovery, formulation and manufacturing. Efforts will also be redoubled to work with the University of Chester to secure an investment/development partner for Thornton Science Park before the end of the calendar year.
Giving consumers and visitors confidence that Cheshire and Warrington is somewhere that is open and safe to visit will remain a key focus as we begin to move away from pandemic restrictions.
The Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub will continue to serve as a key point of contact for business support advice and support. Over 2020 it engaged with over 4,300 SMEs to offer direct advice and have had 48,000 users of its advice-focused website.
Clare Hayward MBE DL, Chair of Cheshire and Warrington LEP said: “Cheshire and Warrington has been a stand-out performer in the UK and we have a strong platform to build on, however we are taking nothing for granted in our efforts to recover lost ground. We are working closely with businesses and employees to understand what they believe the priorities are to both ensure their voice is heard locally and nationally and to direct all our efforts so we invest in the right areas to have the greatest impact. We are united in our belief and determination to come back with a cleaner, healthier and more inclusive growth economy.”
Read the Recovery Plan here