F Kumi-Ampofo provided Members with an update on the matters arising since the last meeting in order to finalise the plan. A summary of the plan had been provided to Central Government ahead of the Chancellor’s Statement. A final draft of the plan had been produced and had been endorsed at the recent SCR LEP Board meeting. The plan would be presented to the MCA meeting on 27 July 2020 for approval. Members would be provided with the final draft of the plan.
Members noted the summary of agreed interventions which related to People, Employers and Place:-
· A total funding of £770m which would assist over 50,000 people to re-engage with the labour market and adapt to the new economy. The SCR jobs programme would enable work experience, apprenticeships, training, reskilling, upskilling and enable skill guarantees for young people. It would also overcome barriers for the disadvantaged i.e. childcare and other care responsibilities, digital skills, housing and transport, and to enable unemployed individuals to be matched to job opportunities.
· A total funding of £380m to support employers to adapt, survive and thrive despite the Covid-19 pandemic. This would support over 25,000 businesses, and would back employers to support and deliver a jobs-led recovery.
· A total funding of £570m for infrastructure investment to level up the economy, create jobs and transform communities to ensure flexible investments and recapitalisation, leadership support, supply chain programmes and procurement. It would enable a Covid-19 spatial adaptation to reconfigured and redevelop urban centres and principal towns, together with sustainable travel, a shovel-ready decarbonisation investment to accelerate low carbon transition, and a shovel-ready infrastructure investment with spades in the ground and cranes in the sky.
The SCR Devolution Process was currently in a near phase of completion, following which the first tranche of funding was expected to be received and the MCA powers to act as envisaged, which would be particularly important when implementing the action plan. Several Government funding announcements had been made around skills and employment, but it was unclear of the role that the combined authorities and local authorities would have; the details of which were now becoming transparent. The Government had already made announcements in relation to housing. The Chancellor was expected to attend the Houses of Parliament to read out the Comprehensive Spending Review, following which the Devolution White Paper was expected, which would take the process onto the next stage. A meeting between the MCA and the Mayor would be held today, and further engagements were ongoing regarding how to ensure the required resources.
The SCR LEP Board had approved the process to develop the implementation plans via the thematic boards. When the process had been developed, the local authority leaders, DfT members and private sector board members would meet to steer and direct the plans to ensure that the renewal action plan could be delivered. Close working continued with the Government to ensure that the required resources were in place.
Members noted that the £1.7bn required for the plan was unsecured, and that the full amount was unlikely to be achieved. Conversations were underway with the Government on the run up to the Spending Review, to discuss how to utilise existing resources, perhaps around the apprenticeship levy, and other ways that the monies could be utilised to realise the objectives.
Councillor Baker expressed capacity concerns for the local authorities who were expected to deliver the skills and education, who were already under pressure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
F Kumi-Ampofo stated that the work was ongoing, a mapping out exercise would be undertaken regarding existing capacity across the SCR whilst not restricting to the capacity of the MCA or local authorities. Capacity would be established across the voluntary sector to understand the delivery that was currently ongoing, to ensure that the matter could be progressed as quickly as possible. In relation to People, Employers and Place, each had an allocated group of local authority officers and senior officers from the MCA to explore how it would be delivered together with the extra required resources. An update would be provided in due course.
Councillor Jones queried whether the urban town centre regeneration funding had already been taken off from £1.7bn total. He also queried whether companies would be requested to support their aspect of the plan.
F Kumi-Ampofo referred to some of the existing funding which was within the £1.7bn whilst acknowledging that the money was potentially available through the towns funding. The funding for the urban town centre regeneration was on top of what had already been allocated. Members noted that there was almost never a case where 100% funding had been provided for the private sector, unless it had been proven beyond doubt that the applicant had no other possible recourse for funding.
Councillor Ross referred to the last Board Meeting where reference had been made to the opportunities for growth within the health care sector and education, together with the concerns raised regarding the universities that replied upon overseas income, in particularly from China, which may have been affected by the pandemic. He queried whether there was anything specific within the plan to support the universities and the potential growth areas for the health care sector and education.
F Kumi-Ampofo stated that opportunities for health care and other parts of the working group had already been addressed, to identify opportunities and to ensure that it was enabled as much as possible. Universities were a national problem. Discussions had been held with the Vice Chancellor of one of the universities regarding how to support its work. One particular university had been selected to undertake research regarding the delivery, particularly around Employers and People, or to be actively engaged in some of the employer leadership support or mentoring programmes.
Councillor Ross wished the plan well in terms of securing most of the £1.7bn. He noted the priorities list that was in place in the event that the funding did fall short of the £1.7bn to invest in training and skills.
RESOLVED – That Members noted the update.