East Suffolk outlines efforts to kickstart district economy following coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 16:30 27 July 2020
A taskforce is to be formed to investigate ways of kickstarting the economy in part of Suffolk following the coronavirus lockdown, including means of upping demand for local firms.
A motion by East Suffolk Council’s Labour group was passed last week which pledged to assess methods to help keep money and spending in the local economy, through a model known as “community wealth building”.
That project has been used successfully in Preston where councils have utilised local firms for their contracts, encouraged job creation in the most deprived areas and enabled communities to benefit from key land and property.
In East Suffolk, the council has agreed a task group to look at procuring contracts locally where possible, identify where council spend is “leaking” out of the district, use socially-responsible and local suppliers, and work with key local employers such as the Port of Felixstowe, EDF Energy and Scottish Power Renewables.
Labour group leader Peter Byatt said: “The Coronavirus pandemic has caused such a national economic and social shock that it will take many years for us to recover. Tens of thousands have died, others have lost their jobs and many businesses will no longer trade.
“Parts of East Suffolk in the former Waveney area are already classed as in the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods in England. Wages are low, opportunities slim and educational and skills levels are poor in places.
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“Efforts now to restart the economy have so far focussed on infrastructure building and ‘shovel ready’ projects to address the anticipated sharp rise in unemployment.
“We are aware that East Suffolk is revising its economic delivery plan to address a period of post-pandemic recovery and believe that this is a golden opportunity to use recovery from the pandemic to create a new ‘normal’, to build back better than before, to tackle the undisputed deprivation already in our midst and to build additional resilience within our communities to weather future storms.”
Among the measures will be using suppliers who pay the national living wage, and supporting institutions such as Lowestoft College which is producing courses in renewable energy to create good jobs for young people in the town.
Conservative council leader Steve Gallant said: “I am very happy to support the premise of this motion with the view to us carrying out further investigations as to what we can and can’t do, and what we do already.
“There is an ideal opportunity, but we need to be a little careful because the last thing we want to do is inadvertently disadvantage any of our local businesses.
“Everything we do needs to be tinged with caution but I am absolutely in favour of looking at opportunities to build that community wealth.”
Mr Gallant added that it was important that firms in East Suffolk which have a customer base outside of the district were not hampered in their trade.
However, some councillors raised concerns that it represented a form of protectionism which could spiral into other councils not using East Suffolk firms in response, or discourage others from investing in the district.
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