Coronavirus update: New task force will aim to shape West of England’s post-pandemic economy

April 22, 2020

A taskforce bringing together businesses, universities and the West of England’s local authorities is being set up to ensure the region’s economy recovers as quickly as possible from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The new group will also represent the region in discussions with central government to make sure its needs are heard in Westminster. 

A number of sector and themed groups will also be set up to help shape the taskforce’s recovery plans and ensure assistance is targeted at the right industries for the region.

The task force – to be called the West of England Economic Recovery Board – will be led by regional Metro Mayor Tim Bowles as a partnership between the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), businesses, universities and local councils.

The task force will initially:

  • Put together a recovery plan, including measures to help businesses adapt to the new economic landscape and improve resilience, as well as support for residents to develop new skills, training and employment opportunities.
  • Look at the impact of the government’s economic measures on businesses and communities, identifying where additional support is needed.
  • Feedback to government and lobby to ensure the West of England has what it needs for economic recovery; advising and supporting a managed exit from lockdown arrangements and identifying the next stages of financial support needed.
  • Make sure the region has the right public transport, physical and digital infrastructure. WECA is already working with bus and rail companies to ensure key workers can get to work. This work will continue to ensure they continue to operate as we move into recovery. 

The sector and themed groups – which reflect the region’s economic DNA and will feed into these aims – will initially include: creative and digital; aerospace and advanced engineering; professional services; retail, hospitality and tourism; food and drink; transport and logistics; voluntary, community and social enterprise; commercial property market; black and minority ethnic businesses and communities; rural economy; and low carbon.

Mayor Bowles, pictured right, said: “Coronavirus is having a profound impact on all parts of our economy.

“The government has taken unprecedented steps to provide a lifeline to many of our businesses and residents, but now we need to build on this with a specific West of England recovery plan.

“The combined authority has already been proactive and started this work. Now this new task force will mean our region can work together to put in place the measures we need to support our residents and businesses for the medium and long-term.

“That way, rather than just getting back on our feet, we’ll be able to emerge stronger than before.

“This new group will bring partners together to make sure the West of England speaks to government with one voice, to ensure our region’s needs are heard nationally.”

West of England LEP chair Prof Steve West, pictured below, added: “We must work together to ensure that we rebuild on the strengths of our economy. As one of the most productive regions in the UK, the West of England is key to leading the national recovery.

“We remain focused on our longer-term ambitions for clean growth that benefits every resident, as set out in our region’s Local Industrial Strategy, but we have to consider carefully what else we have to do to rebuild our region, which is why the new taskforce will look at some specific sectors too.” 

The existing Covid-19 Business Response Panel set up by Mayor Bowles in March will also play a role. This panel includes Business West, the Federation of Small Businesses, Destination Bristol & Visit Bath, British Business Bank, CBI, Institute of Directors, Lloyds, Barclays, NatWest and HSBC.

WECA said more details about the task force group and its members will be announced soon.

Support will be provided by WECA with additional secondees from partners, including businesses.

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