Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and partner organisations have created a working group to look at how best to tackle the borough’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group consists of employees from the council and relevant partner organisations, such as Job Centre Plus and The Citizen’s Advice Service. Economic recovery is a key priority for the council and one which will be a focus for this year’s budget. This Economic Crisis and Recovery Cell is made up of people whose roles relate to the following areas:
- economic hardship
- business support and employment
- procurement/social value/commissioning
- major development projects
Some initiatives the group are currently involved in establishing include the Kickstart scheme, creating a local supplier list for procurement contracts and the creation of the SmartSouthend data platform.
In December, the council received confirmation that they were successful in their application to become a Kickstart employer and a Gateway organisation. The Kickstart scheme aims to create work placements for young people who are at risk of becoming unemployed for the long-term and is designed to be a stepping stone to further employment.
As part of the scheme, selected out-of-work young people will be offered six month work placements for at least 25 hours a week to help them gain experience, skills and confidence. Employers will receive funding for 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer national insurance contributions and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. Potential candidates for positions will be referred to the council by Job Centre Plus.
Initially placements will be offered with departments within the council, although the scheme does allow organisations to partner up with other businesses. This could be a way for local companies who need extra staff to benefit whilst helping young local jobseekers. Information for employers on how to apply for Kickstart places will be coming soon.
For certain procurement contracts, the council now places an emphasis on securing quotes from locally based suppliers. It is hoped that this focus on local will help some businesses based within the community to recover from financial hardship which may have come about as a result of the pandemic. Certain major developments have recently been announced, such as the proposed Better Queensway scheme, Seaway and the council’s purchase of the Victoria Shopping Centre. These largescale projects will create opportunities for locally based businesses to bid for the delivery of work and services, as well as employment and skills opportunities.
In the council’s Southend 2050 ambitions, which were created in collaboration with residents and businesses across the community, the desire for Southend to become a leading smart city was clearly evident. To support this vision, the Smart Southend website has been created, which provides a single point of access for data, intelligence and analysis about the borough. This will support Southend to become a more data driven and data intelligent town, changing the way that needs are identified and decisions are made. It will further change the way that Southend is able to attract investment and direct resources.
Whilst the working group is a starting point, the council is aware of the need to be able to adapt to quickly changing conditions, which have become a defining factor of the pandemic. This may mean that other themes, colleagues and partners will need to be incorporated into the group as it progresses.
The council are hosting a live online Roadmap To Recovery briefing, which takes place on Tuesday 30 March between 3:00pm and 4:00pm and would like local business owners to attend.
Murray Foster, Chair of the Southend Business Partnership, said:
“The Economic Crisis and Recovery working group, which consists of council employees and individuals from partner organisations such as myself, will work collaboratively on ways for our borough to come out of the economic predicament that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some initial projects which the group are involved with include the Kickstart scheme which looks to create paid work placements for young people, establishing new best practice for using local suppliers as part of our procurement policy and creating smartsouthend.org.
“The group is keen to hear the wider community’s ideas for improving our economic prospects in the wake of the pandemic, so please come along to the Roadmap To Recovery briefing event on the 30 March if you are able to.”
To attend the Roadmap to Recovery Briefing, please register on eventbrite.