Agenda item

To receive a joint presentation on local economic recovery from Philippa Batting, Managing Director at Buckinghamshire Business First (BBF) and Ian Barham, Partnership Manager at the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

To receive an update from cabinet members on Covid-19 and local economic recovery in Buckinghamshire.


Philippa Batting, Managing Director, BBF

Ian Barham, Partnership Manager, Bucks LEP

Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council

Steve Bowles, Cabinet Member for Town Centre Regeneration

Ian Thompson, Corporate Director Planning, Growth and Sustainability


Members received an update presentation on covid-19 and local economic recovery from the Leader of the Council and guest presenters Ian Barham, Partnership Manager at Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership (Bucks LEP) and Philippa Batting, Managing Director at Buckinghamshire Business First (BFF). The following key points were highlighted:


·         The Buckinghamshire economy was predominantly made up of small – medium enterprises (SMEs) and key sectors included the creative industries and sports.

·         Buckinghamshire Council and key partners had worked hard throughout the pandemic to provide support to businesses, including financial support and advice.

  • Business grant funding amounting to £92m was made available to businesses in Buckinghamshire and £85m had been allocated by end of August 2020. In addition, discretionary grant awards totalled £4.45m.

·         Whilst some town centres were struggling, with fewer residents commuting into London some towns had experienced improved vibrancy. This had been supported by the licensing of pavements to enable businesses to provide outdoor hospitality services.

·         A local economic recovery plan would be delivered by the strong partnerships in Buckinghamshire. There were three phases of delivery to the plan: react, renew and rebound. It was estimated that the Bucks economy was in the latter half of the react phase.

·         The Buckinghamshire Local Industrial Strategy was to be reviewed due to changing context. Green growth had also been incorporated into the strategy.

·         New opportunities were arising in digital as people were adapting to new ways of working. Healthcare and education services have been able to be provided remotely.

·         Trade mark applications had increased which could be a sign of economic recovery.

·         An Innovation Centre was due to be opened at Westcott Venture Park.

·         A project was being piloted to support the reskilling of residents who had previously worked in the aviation industry.

·         BBF were the listening ears and helping hands for Bucks businesses, supporting all businesses including the self-employed who were especially at risk of unemployment at this time.

·         When the pandemic hit, Buckinghamshire Council employees temporarily moved over to work in BBF to help support businesses.

·         There had been incredible support from the Bucks business community when the pandemic hit, with businesses offering to make PPE.

·         Businesses had spent large amounts of money making their businesses covid-19 safe, which proved difficult against government guidelines that were constantly changing.

·         Some accommodation providers had experienced the best August they had ever had owing to UK holidaymaker ‘staycations’.

·         There were more start-ups registered in the county this year than previously, but it was unknown as to whether the figures included existing businesses that had changed their operating model.

·         Cabinet member for town centre regeneration, Councillor Steve Bowles, provided an update on town centre recovery and expressed thanks to officers for their hard work during the pandemic and transition to a unitary council.


A number of key questions were raised:


·         In response to a question raised as to the progress of implementing the High Wycombe Regeneration Strategy, members were advised that work was progressing and that the strategy was being reviewed in light of covid-19.

·         In response to a question as to what support was being provided to young people experiencing unemployment, it was noted that BBF have enterprise advisors supporting young people with their careers options. Further, BBF run a programme to let young people know what jobs are available in Bucks.

·         It was queried whether the £61,426 awarded in Resilience Fund grants safeguarding 10 jobs had been good value for money, and members were advised that the jobs supported four key sectors and would create a further significant number of jobs.

·         A question was raised as to what support would be available to parents that had paid school transport costs in the event a another lockdown. Members noted that during the previous national lockdown period, the council credited parents funds paid for school transport, and that this could apply again in the event of another full lockdown. It was also noted that government policy going forward was that schools remain open.

·         It was asked as to how broadband could be improved in certain areas. Members were informed that superfast broadband currently covered 96% of premises in Buckinghamshire, and that the Connected Counties programme (Bucks and Herts) was working to further improve connectivity. A £5bn central government programme ‘Outside In’ to improve connectivity had been announced but the detail for how the money would be spent in Bucks was unclear.


Note 1: Councillor C Rouse left the meeting at 11.00.

Note 2: Councillor Matt Knight left the meeting at 11.33.

Supporting documents:

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