Ambitious NCC Covid-19 recovery plan gets seal of approval

An ambitious recovery plan has been approved by Northumberland County Council’s Cabinet today (23 June 2020), which sets out how the Council and the county as a whole can recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The plan was agreed at a special meeting of the Council’s Cabinet to discuss it’s response to the virus, and what the Council and its partners must do to emerge from the challenges of Covid-19 and its long term impact.

Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland County Council said: “Whilst we’re not out of this crisis yet, it’s really important that our residents and businesses understand how we will play our part in the economic recovery of the county, and of course how we are going to help communities recover too.

“Our number one priority for Covid-19 recovery is to get our economy back on track, and we don’t underestimate the scale of the challenge. However it’s important we remember that before the crisis, our economy was in a good place with real strengths in key sectors, including tourism, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and in energy and offshore.

“We need to rebuild confidence through strong leadership, and acknowledge that we have not lost our strengths in innovation, skills, our natural assets, and of course our people, and we need to harness all these to make sure we meet the challenge and come back stronger than ever.”

The phased approach to recovery recognises that plans will need to respond to changes as lockdown continues to ease, with early engagement across the county seen as essential.

At the heart of the plan is a pledge to ensure the county’s tourism economy comes back stronger than ever, by working with partners and businesses and investing to promote all that is great about Northumberland. This recognised that the hospitality, accommodation providers, food and drink, and retail sectors were particularly hard hit by the pandemic, at a time when which would ordinarily be the run up to peak tourist season.

Cllr Cath Homer, cabinet member for Culture, Art, Leisure and Tourism at the council, added: “We are determined that Northumberland’s visitor economy will come back better and stronger, and working with partners and businesses, we will do everything we can to promote all that is great about our county.

“We have been working incredibly hard to support businesses through this crisis, paying out millions of pounds in grants, and actively lobbying the Government to bring forward further measures to help the tourism sector.
“Tourism in Northumberland had been increasing year on year before the virus hit, which makes recovery even more important. This is exactly why we have put significant investment into a new state-of-the-art digital offer for Visit Northumberland, alongside a fresh new brand.
“Alongside the package of support we have secured through the North of Tyne Covid Capacity Fund specifically for the tourism businesses, this investment will help kick start the visitor economy and ensure Northumberland continues to be a destination of choice.”
The phased recovery plan sets out how the council pledges to move ahead swiftly with its plans to invest in new infrastructure right across the county including roads, schools, council housing and other local amenities, all providing opportunities for local businesses, employment and apprenticeships.

Continued regeneration of the county remains a priority in recovery, and the Council plans to work with the Government to accelerate plans for re-opening the Northumberland Line, which includes investment in town centres starting with Blyth, Hexham, Bedlington and Ashington as well as working on plans to invest in the future of our rural towns.

A dedicated Covid Business Hub will become a permanent feature and continue to provide ongoing support and advice, after paying out over £90m in grants to local businesses over the last two months.

Action on climate change remains a priority for the Council and they will drive forward the delivery of their Climate Action Plan, including plans to plant 1 million new trees as part of the Great Northumberland Forest, and plans to establish a groundbreaking Forest Partnership to support our new green economy.  
The final theme to support recovery is ensuring that apprenticeships and training opportunities are available to all, to ensure that the County’s residents can access new jobs being created.

James Ramsbotham, Chief Executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce comments: “Throughout this crisis, businesses have been telling us how the pandemic has directly affected them, including the overnight collapse to their sales, which led to issues with cash flow, staffing and recruitment.

“But the visitor economy has taken one of the biggest hits, and businesses will be looking to the Council to be enablers of growth, with clear recovery plans that are complementary to the North East LEP and the North of Tyne Combined Authority.

“The Chamber is absolutely committed to working with the Council and its partners to help the county and the North East get back on its feet and achieve its full potential”.

Cllr Jackson added: “As we move carefully into recovery, our top priority must and will always be doing all we can to protect the health of all our residents.

“Our plan sets out our ambitions for the future, and demonstrates our commitment to doing all that we can to support our County to recover from this awful pandemic and unprecedented and prolonged period of uncertainty.

“In the short term, the Council will continue to work with businesses to support the safe reopening of our towns, but our longer term ambitions remain as we look at rebuilding a strong economy, thriving places, communities and places.

“We need to start an ongoing conversation on our plans for recovery over the coming weeks and months, and we are absolutely committed to listening to and working with our communities, our partners, our businesses and the Government to take forward recovery in Northumberland.”

The full Covid-19 Planning for Recovery in Northumberland report is available here

Article by NCC

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