A set of slides is attached which will be presented at the meeting.
The Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Mandip Rai, and the Chair of the LLEP Board, Mr Kevin Harris, will present this item. The Leader of the Council has also been invited to attend.
Members considered a report and presentation by the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership’s (LLEP) Chief Executive Officer, Mr Mandip Rai, and Chair of the LLEP Board, Mr Kevin Harris, on its Economic Recovery Strategy. A copy of the report and presentation slides marked ‘Agenda Item 9’ are filed with these minutes.
The Chairman welcomed Mr Raia and Mr Harris to the meeting as well as Mr N J Rushton CC, Leader of the County Council and the Council’s representative on the LLEP Board.
In introducing the item the Assistant Chief Executive advised that the recent focus of the LLEP had been on responding to the economic impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic. The County Council had fully participated in that response through the Leader and through officer involvement on the Local Resilience Partnership’s Economic Recovery Cell which was chaired by the LLEP.
Arising from the presentation, Members noted the following:
· The Economic Recovery Strategy was a live document and would be updated as the situation changed and further data became available locally and nationally. The duration of the pandemic was unknown, and a second peak and further local downs would affect businesses further and the response therefore required.
· The Chancellor had predicted a 35% contraction in the national economy resulting in 1 in 10 jobs being lost. Aggregated across Leicester and Leicestershire this could equate to as many as 45,000 to 50,000 job losses.
· Government support would delay the true extent of the economic impact of Covid 19. A clearer picture would emerge towards the end of the year and after the furlough scheme had come to an end. Since March there had been an increase of 18,000 people claiming job seekers allowance and this would likely increase.
· The LLEPs role would be to act as a facilitator and coordinate efforts across the region to help small businesses. Leicestershire was a predominantly SME (small and medium sized enterprises) economy and such businesses had been particularly hard hit.
· The fundamental approach of the LLEP for Leicester and Leicestershire had not changed. However, some of the fundamental drivers and infrastructure within the local economy needed to be reinforced and focus diverted to protect the regions current skill base and employment.
Arising from discussion and questions, the following points raised:
(i) The pandemic had badly affected the health of those of the older generation, but the longer-term economic impacts would disproportionately affect those in the 18 to 24 year age group. Members were concerned to note the significant increase in youth unemployment during the pandemic and agreed that the creation of new local employment and training and retraining opportunities would be critical.
(ii) Members acknowledged that the LLEP could not provide or direct the training provided locally, but were pleased to note the work of the Skills Advisory Panel in producing an evidence bases of local business skill and training requirements which had been shared with FE colleges and universities to help inform future education provision and ensure the two were aligned. As youth unemployment would be a national issue, the Government would likely introduce wider training schemes that the LLEP would also signpost people too where appropriate.
(iii) Concern was express that the LLEP’s Plan did not include reference to manufacturing and construction businesses. Members noted that construction and increased advanced manufacturing remained central to the LLEP’s long term goals as set out in the Local Industrial Strategy. However, improving productivity in this area would take longer as focus now needed to be diverted to supporting SMEs, protecting employment and creating new jobs. A key area of support provided by the LLEP now was through SME business grants that were critical to build resilience and ensure businesses could survive.
(iv) Regarding the long term aim to increase advanced manufacturing in the region, a member raised concerns that this could exacerbate current unemployment levels as systems became more automated.
(v) In response to questions regarding the role of the County Council in responding to the economic difficulties arising from the pandemic, Members were advised that that Council’s own economic activities would be reassessed, and future plans would be aligned with the work of the LLEP to ensure this supported the wider partnership effort. Members were pleased to note that the Council had sought and secured agreement from partners to repurpose one of its grant schemes for rural areas and towns to instead support business recovery from Covid 19 in the short to medium term.
(vi) Members questioned whether the forecasts for reduced growth would affect the need for the County Council’s recently established Growth Unit. Members noted the Unit was now fully up and running and was playing an important role in supporting the LLEP in the development of its current Strategy and short-term response to the impacts of Covid 19. The Unit also supported the Council’s own economic recovery plans, but would continue to focus on long term growth delivery through securing funding and influencing government policy for the benefit of Leicestershire. It was suggested that the role of the Unit would be critical in ensuring Leicestershire did not miss out on opportunities as the government would likely prioritise infrastructure projects to drive the economy forward.
(vii) A member suggested that to support SMEs the LLEP should seek to lobby government to change regulations which were considered overly bureaucratic and disproportionately affected such businesses. It was noted that this was a matter being addressed by LLEP’s nationally.
(viii) Concern was expressed that in addition to young people, those with learning difficulties or mental health issues risked falling through the gaps and losing support that would otherwise enable them to develop skill to enter the job market. It was acknowledged that the need to improve such support existed pre-Covid 19, but it would be necessary to ensure the pandemic did not adversely affect progress already made or continuing to be improved in this area.
(ix) The benefit of the apprenticeships scheme and apprenticeship levy were questioned, and it was suggested that these had not benefited businesses as intended, not had they work to improve the local skills bases. Members noted that the LLEP had and would continue to lobby government on this issue.
(x) Whilst the current situation was very difficult it would be important to identify opportunities and be flexible to respond to these and ensure support was not only provided for existing businesses, but also for the growth of new businesses as recovery took hold.
the report and presentation on the LLEP Economic Recovery Strategy be noted;
(b) That officers be requested to provide a report on the work of the Growth Unit including how this has been affected by the economic impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic.