Report of Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills
The Committee considered a report of the Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills (schedule 2 to the signed minutes) giving them a quarterly update on progress made against the Staffordshire Economic Recovery, Renewal and Transformation Strategy, “Staffordshire Means Back to Business”.
The Strategy was adopted in 2020 and set out the County Council’s priorities for the next five years through the following four phases:- (i) Respond – “support our businesses and residents through the Covid-19 pandemic”; (ii) Recover – “ create the conditions to support our businesses and residents to return to work as soon as possible”; (iii) Renew – “continue to progress those priorities that will play an important role in achieving our ambitions to develop the local economy beyond the current crisis” and; (iv) Transform – “ utilise the opportunities presented by the current economic conditions by supporting the transformation of the local economy to be digital, clean and higher-value”.
Members were provided with various headline statistics including:- (i) the proportion of working age residents in Staffordshire on Government support schemes which had fallen to 9% against a national average of approximately 11%; (ii) the Staffordshire claimant count for Universal Credit which had fallen to 3.6% from 4.4% in the previous report (July 2020); (iii) the predicted national unemployment peak rate which had been revised from 12% at the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic to 5.2%; (iv) then vacancy rate which had increased by 18% between September and October 2021 compared to the previous month. In addition, they noted that there had been several major business expansions announced in the County in recent months including 2000 new jobs at ASOS’s development at Fradley and 800 new jobs at Pets at Homes development in Stafford.
During the discussion which ensued Members were pleased to note the positive signs of economic recovery following the recent recession caused by the Pandemic and the continued support being provided by the County Council to business. However, whilst Staffordshire continued to perform better than the national and regional averages, they acknowledged that a return to pre-pandemic performance levels would take time and there was likely to be further setbacks in the economy in the future as it adapted to new market/post pandemic conditions. In addition, they highlighted the need for effective engagement with school pupils and students in further education regarding entrepreneurship and requested the Cabinet Member to ensure appropriate attention was given in this respect.
In response to requests from the Committee, the Cabinet Member undertook to improve liaison with ‘local’ Members regarding economic development in their areas linked to the various business development initiatives being promoted by the County Council.
RESOLVED – (a) That the report be received and noted.
(b) That the continued signs of economic recovery following the re-opening of the Staffordshire economy be welcomed.
(c) That the Cabinet Member ensure appropriate emphasis on engagement with school pupils and students in further education to improve skills, employability and promote entrepreneurship.
(d) That a further update be brought to the Committee in July 2022 to include key metrics linked to the four priority phases listed above.