Agenda and minutes

Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee - Friday 15th January 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Meeting to be conducted using Microsoft Teams - Microsoft Teams. View directions

Contact: Mandy Pattinson  Email: mandy.pattinson@staffordshire.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

106.

Declarations of Interest

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Minutes:

Keith Flunder declared an interest in item 5: Economic Recovery, Renewal and Transformation – Quarterly Update, as a recipient of grant support.

107.

Minutes of the Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee held on 12 November 2020 pdf icon PDF 210 KB

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Minutes:

RESOLVED - That the minutes of the meeting held on 12 November 2020 were confirmed and signed by the Chairman.

108.

Protecting Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for Future Generations pdf icon PDF 132 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities

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Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities had introduced proposals to protect Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for Future Generations to the Select Committee on 12 November and whilst accepting the need for mitigating action to protect the SAC, the select committee, mindful of  the frustration of some user groups, had asked the Cabinet Member to look again at the consultation and reconsider whether it had been sufficiently robust and inclusive. 

 

The proposals to protect Cannock Chase SAC from the impacts of increasing recreational pressure associated with housing growth included a car parking plan and a site user plan with improved infrastructure and capacity overall but seeking to reduce recreational pressure in the most sensitive areas whilst increasing capacity in more robust areas.

 

The Cabinet Member had undertaken her review and met with user groups and concluded that a significant and robust evidence base supported the proposals and provided a strong rationale for the suggested measures. Furthermore, she believed the consultation undertaken by SAC had been robust and inclusive and had helped shape the resulting proposals.

 

The County Council, in its consideration of the proposals on their land, had made some additional recommendations which further addressed and mitigated concern regarding carparking and with the SAC undertook to facilitate further public engagement as phases of implementation are brought forward.

 

Members noted that many of the 3m visitors to Cannock Chase came from outside of the county and a small parking charge would be a contribution to Staffordshire’s economy.  A member commented that there seemed to be more concern about car parking location and charges and less about preserving the ecology of the site. The Cabinet Member confirmed that in the new proposals there would still be 500 free car parking spaces.

 

A Member asked for assurance that the Cabinet Member had spoken to many groups personally since the November meeting. They remained concerned that the consultation process had not been inclusive, that some had found it to be confusing and misleading which could account for the poor participation rate.  Furthermore, they were concerned about vulnerable use groups – those with sensory impairment for example – who were worried about the proposed car parking arrangements.  The Cabinet Member assured members that she had had conversations with and listened to many interested parties and individuals via various media and was confident that there was support for her proposals.  She reminded members that the SAC had conducted the consultation, not the County Council and that she was keen to engage further with people wot disabilities over specific provision for them.

 

Another Member shared concern about the original consultation and urged the Cabinet Member to harness the energy of some user groups and involve them in implementing the proposals and that she should encourage and involve voluntary groups of interested people in the process.

 

Members accepted it was a difficult balance to protect the SAC whilst maintaining access to the country park for people to enjoy and that ensuring consultation reached the right  ...  view the full minutes text for item 108.

109.

Economic Recovery, Renewal and Transformation - Quarterly Update pdf icon PDF 256 KB

Report of the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills

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Minutes:

The Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills outlined progress made against the Staffordshire Economic Recovery, Renewal and Transformation Strategy. 

 

He acknowledged that despite the challenge of a third lockdown, the UK economy had shrunk by 2.5% - much less than economists had predicted. Furthermore, the EU trade deal struck before Christmas had ensured a smoot transition to Brexit, avoided interruption in trade and finally the continued roll out of the vaccination programme was cause for optimism. The Strategy had been considered by the Select Committee in June 2020 at which time the impact of the pandemic on the economy was unclear and that remained the case. 

 

The Strategy and associated delivery plans were flexible enough to respond to whatever situation became a reality over the coming months. ‘Live’ assessments informed the development of the strategy and of interventions/projects/programmes. The Council continued to produce a new Economic Bulletin on a monthly basis.

 

Over all the proportion of working age Staffordshire residents on one of the Government support schemes was estimated to be just over 15%, slightly lower than the national average. The claimant count rate was also relatively low in Staffordshire (4.8%) compared to regionally (7.3%) and nationally (6.3%), however, it was young people, the lowest paid and part time workers who continued to feel the impact of the economic shock the most.  The Cabinet Member highlighted youth unemployment as of particular concern and he outlined some schemes targeting this, including the Kickstart scheme now rolled out into Staffordshire. 

 

Although unemployment and those claiming benefits had recently declined there remained a considerable number of employees furloughed within the county (27,000 – 7% of the eligible population and in-line with the national figure).  The Cabinet Member identified as a real positive, a significant uplift in recruitment with job vacancies in Staffordshire increasing by 15% between September and October.

 

The Cabinet Member outlined a number of interventions directly undertaken by the County Council supporting businesses and individuals.  These included the new £0.360m small Business Start-up scheme which had supported 125 applicants so far and a Partnership with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the county council and all District and Borough Councils providing back office support to very small employers.

 

A county wide Redundancy Taskforce had proved invaluable and had become a partnership of 24 organisations to support the co-ordination of services to help to redeploy, retrain, reskill, upskill and signpost people to new employment opportunities.  Schemes for young people included Ignite your Entrepreneur which delivered in an engaging and interactive way through an online platform, dedicated resources and ongoing professional support. 

 

The Cabinet Member accepted that this was a time of huge challenge nationally and locally but the County Council were playing their part in supporting businesses and shaping the way forward.

 

A Member asked why Staffordshire seemed more resilient in terms of job creation/retention. The Cabinet Member believed Staffordshire had a good long term track record of low unemployment and with support, determined to retain staff wherever possible.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 109.

110.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 277 KB

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Minutes:

The Select Committee agreed to include an item on the relationship between training and skills and the future Staffordshire economy in their work programme. They agreed that considering items on schools was not timely during periods of national lockdown and that such items should be postponed. The Select Committee requested an item on the work undertaken by the All Party Member Working Group on Future Economy and Enterprise, chaired by Simon Tagg, and any response to that groups report. 

 

RESOLVED - That changes to the Select Committee’s work programme be agreed.