Recovery and the ‘New Economy’
The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 public health crisis and its resulting impacts continue to be felt around the globe. In response to the crisis I’m sure that many of us have been involved in work areas completely different to the day-job over the last few months. For myself, that has meant dealing with the logistics of delivering food parcels to some of our most vulnerable residents. Whilst this has been intense at times, when the pressure drops slightly and there’s chance to reflect, it’s been exceptionally rewarding to consider the huge impact made by local government and organisations during these challenging times which has shown us at our finest.
Our thoughts have now very much turned to recovery and the longer-term future of our economy. The economic support measures put in place locally and by Government have undoubtedly had a positive impact on sustaining businesses and jobs, although forthcoming changes to these schemes and the threat of a seemingly inevitable period of recession will present clear challenges and there will unfortunately be further businesses closures and job losses.
Supporting businesses to operate as fully and as quickly as possible, alongside support to quickly get people back to work, will be vital to minimising further impacts in the short-term. As I write this, we have taken the first tentative steps to reopening our high streets, and I have to say that I am irrationally happy that I can now once again get a Gregg’s bacon roll. There will however undoubtedly be a significant impact on our towns and cities, with the lockdown likely to have expediated the shift to online shopping and the need to reshape our centres. Although walking through Stafford town centre earlier in the week, I was taken by how noticeable it was that a large proportion of the people were from the older generations who clearly greatly value the town and particularly the opportunity to stop and have a chat (socially distanced of course!).
Despite the undoubted challenges we as economic development professionals face in supporting the recovery, we also need to ensure that we’re grasping the opportunities that have been arisen through the current situation. Within Staffordshire we have moved quickly to consider this and agree our priorities for the next five-years through our Economic Recovery, Renewal and Transformation Strategy:
Our strategy sets out not only how we will continue to respond to the crisis but also look to take advantage of opportunities such as the significant increase in home-working, potential changes to the commercial property market and the increase in sustainable transport movements. As ever, the successful delivery of the strategy will be dependent on working with all our partners and we, as we all will, have at least one eye on the next Government policy moves related to the ‘levelling-up’, devolution and ‘fair-funding’ agendas to name a few. Supporting economic recovery and growth will be amongst the top priorities for Government in the coming months and years and CEDOS will continue to work to shape and influence policy, whilst continuing to share best practice amongst our members.
Interesting times ahead!
Matthew Shufflebotham, CEDOS Hon Sec