Falkirk Council plan for economic recovery

As Falkirk Council agreed plans to support the district’s economic recovery from the impact of Coronvirus, councillors were warned that the full effects have not been felt yet.

By Kirsty Paterson
Thursday, 24th September 2020, 7:00 am

Since the start of COVID-19 the area has seen Universal Credit claimants rise to more than 11,000 members of Falkirk Council’s emergency executive heard.

And while unemployment has soared, among young people it has doubled and councillors heard the work of the council’s employment and training unit would be vital.

Douglas Duff, acting director of development, said: “The potential scale of this is as bad as anything we saw in the 1980s and 90s in those economic downturns.

Economic recovery plan unveiled for Falkirk district

“The lessons that were learned in the 80s and 90s is that it’s important to keep people working and give them the opportunity to progress and build up their capabilities and that’s the approach in this plan.”

Councillors agreed to put in place a two-year plan to boost jobs locally, working closely with partners and harnessing any national support on offer.

They promised support including loans for local small and medium businesses and said they would pursue plans to improve the area’s town centres and boost tourism.

In order to support the emergency business measures councillors agreed to withdraw £232,132 from Business Loans Scotland.

All of these plans will align with the £90 million recently agreed with UK and Scottish Governments as part of the Falkirk Growth Deal, Mr Duff promised.

Ahead of the meeting, local businesses had been asked for their feedback on the problems facing the district; 80.7 per cent of those surveyed have lower business optimism than last year while 72.3per cent have lost income this year.

After the full lockdown, nearly half of businesses said they were re-opening with reduced hours while some reported that supply chains have been disrupted and the lack, and cost of, PPE has affected them.

Both UK and Scottish Governments announced measures including the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme which will offer six-month work placements to those aged 16-24 on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

The Scottish Government is also launching a scheme giving young people the guarantee of a job, education or formal training.

It will also have a £25 million fund to provide retraining for 10,000 people who have lost their jobs or are at risk of doing so.

There will also be a £1.6bn Green New Deal and a £275m fund to help regenerate town centres.

The SNP’s spokesman for economic development, David Alexander, said he was particularly pleased to see the emphasis from the Scottish Government on helping young people.

He said: “It’s very important our youngsters aren’t allowed to drift into the mentality of no hope and a life of crime or drugs.”

He also welcomed town centre funding and said he had every confidence Falkirk Council’s economic development officers would look for proposals that would make an impact.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn, inset, said: “This is a good, robust recovery plan that shows the impact Covid has had on the economy and particularly employment.

“We’ve not fully felt the impact as yet and there is the impact of Brexit about to hit us.”

She said that they would work collaboratively with businesses to create opportunities and said they were enthusiastic about the chance to “build back better”.

Labour group leader Robert Bissett said they too were glad to see the focus on youth unemployment and on small and medium businesses and offered his group’s support to the plan.

More resources to support the economic recovery plan will be agreed at September’s meeting of full council.