To consider the Economic Development Recovery Plan.
Councillor Reeve as the Portfolio Holder for the Economy and Investment introduced the report. He asked that the Committee reviewed the plan and provided comments in order that it could be finalised at Cabinet in July. He highlighted the following:-
He said that life was difficult for many people in the district, with high unemployment and struggling businesses, which posed an unprecedented challenge for the Council. The statistics showed that in Uttlesford 140 businesses per month were approaching the team for assistance, (this is usually 2 to 3 businesses per month), and at the end of May there were 1,930 residents claiming Universal Credit which was the largest number on record.
He thanked the Economic Development Officer and her team for all their hard work.
Councillor Caton was invited to speak to the Committee. He said there was no mention of the investment at the Little Canfield site. He thought the Business Park would help with the inward investment objective.
He was concerned that the Stansted Mountfitchet economy was in decline, possibly due to a lack of commuters but mainly because the airport was not at capacity. This meant that employees were not using the shops and facilities in the area.
He welcomed the investment in Tourism but thought that the timing of the publicity material was too late in the summer and hoped that it was not too Saffron Walden-centric.
In response to Councillor Caton and other questions from Members, Councillor Reeve and the Economic Development Officer said the following:-
In response to a question from Councillor Coote, the Economic Development Officer said that the data collected helped the team to make informed decisions. For example, where to target marketing and in terms of the car park data this could be used to show the quieter days of the week when coaches could be incentivised to visit. She said it also helped to target money to the right place and make better decisions on spending.
In response to a question from Councillor Criscione, Councillor Reeve said inward investment was at the top of the agenda, especially with a growing population. He said there was a need for jobs and employment needed to be suitable for the population and the area. He said the inward investment would link into other initiatives including the Environmental strategy and the Cambridge student work recently carried out to look at ‘What does the green economy mean to Uttlesford?’ Councillor Reeve said he needed to decide what the focus would be for inward investment but he wanted to particularly focus on the green economy. A group called ‘Innovate’ was doing some work around this subject for the Council.
The Economic Development Officer asked Members to get the message to residents about the grants that were on offer.
Councillor Sell said that research was important and asked if a questionnaire, aimed at businesses, about their experience during the pandemic, could also be considered to provide some hard evidence. Councillor Reeve said that this could be taken forward but to ensure there was no duplication he would check that similar data was not being collected already.
Councillor Coote said there was data from the bid in Saffron Walden and asked if other areas had the same data. The Economic Development Officer said they were in touch with different partners including the Saffron Walden Business Improvement District (BID) and did use the data that they collected. She said they had developed strong relationships with partners in all different areas of the district including towns and villages and this would allow the team to respond to whatever happened next.
The Chair agreed with Members that the Economic Development Recovery Plan was achieving great things with limited funds and had good targets and measureable outcomes set in place.