To consider the BCP Futures – a new Economic Development Strategy for BCP Cabinet Report scheduled for Cabinet consideration on 24 November 2021.
The O&S Board is asked to scrutinise and comment on the report and if required make recommendations or observations as appropriate.
Cabinet member invited to attend for this item: Councillor Philip Broadhead, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration Economy and Strategic Planning
The Cabinet report for this item is included with the agenda for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Board.
The Deputy Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Development, Growth and Regeneration, supported by the Head of Economic Development and Sustainability presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'A' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.
Officers responded to comments and requests for clarification, details included:
· BCP Council would create the right environment for businesses to flourish through four priority areas of action. In return, BCP Council expected businesses to commit to a ‘7-point pledge’. Members heard that BCP Council would lead by example and work collaboratively with businesses in order to improve productivity and prosperity.
· On the reference to a BCP ‘cityscape’ within the Economic Development Strategy (EDS), the Board were informed that BCP Council were not intending to citify the conurbation. The Deputy Leader clarified that existing areas of an industrial or city-like nature would receive relevant attention in order to regenerate and improve them appropriately.
· The EDS throws weight behind four key priorities, such as supporting productivity of small and medium sized businesses, rather than being too broad and prioritising all aspects of economic delivery. The Board hear that the expectation was for this process to be transactional between the Council and businesses and that productivity was to be the barometer to show if the EDS was working.
· BCP Council had awarded over £160million in grants to local businesses and charities in the last 18 months, to assist them in moving forward after the pandemic. The ‘Bounce Back Fund’ was used as an example of financial support that BCP Council could use to meet the rising expectations of the business community.
· BCP’s Economic Development team, consisting of 10 members of staff championed the business community and facilitated the transactions between the Council and businesses. The team included dedicated account managers for separate sectors within the business community. The Portfolio Holder was confident that they had the resources in place to meet the rising expectations of the business community and deliver the priorities within the EDS. Members heard from the Head of Economic Development and Sustainability that this would require certain small changes to the team’s focus. An example of where this focus would shift to was in developing the local supply chains. Finally, the Board were told that the Economic Development team would continue to meet with industry leaders to discuss the big issues facing the business community.
· On the matter of the Small Grants Fund, the Deputy Leader explained that at this point in time he did not know the detail of the fund but wanted to replicate the success of the pandemic funding schemes going forward, for example the Bounce Back Fund.
· The Deputy Leader stated that BCP was not a wholly industrial region and that he did not believe that it was a binary choice between economic productivity and climate action.
· On the employment skills gap, the Deputy Leader explained that he was eager to view the situation as a positive opportunity to be creative. Members heard that BCP Council had created a Skills Commission for Dorset. There was recognition that this matter required the input of many individuals and therefore BCP Council had also created lead member roles that focused on skills and levelling up.
· The Deputy Leader welcomed comments on the Equalities Assessment and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), both of which would be used to measure the strategy’s success and agreed that there would need to be consideration of the climate crisis given the Council’s climate commitment.
In concluding the discussion, the Chairman referred to the Dorset Industrial Strategy and questioned whether this was a potential area for synergy alongside the EDS. The Chairman acknowledged the quality of the strategy and the efforts of the staff involved, noting how highly regarded the Economic Development team are by the business community. Finally, the Chairman expressed that he looked forward to the strategy’s action plan coming before the Board for scrutiny in the near future.