Bristol’s One City partners, including Business West, have launched an urgent strategy to support the economy as the city faces the biggest financial depression in recent years.
The continuing impact of COVID-19 on businesses has seen Bristol’s unemployment rate more than double to 4.5% from March to August this year, and over 70,000 people in the city have been furloughed. Recent research by Business West also shows that sales growth in the wider region has been sluggish, despite the easing of lockdown measures in recent months.
James Durie, Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative at Business West has Co-Chaired the One City Economy Board and the Recovery and Renewal Task Force with Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney. The Board was formed last year as part of the One City Office to bring together representatives from Bristol’s diverse economy including: Women In Business Group, TUC, Bristol University, Bristol Port, WECA, MPs, Voscur, Bristol Property Agents, Bottle Yard Studios, Black South West Network, Tech Spark, Bristol Junior Chambers, West of England Combined Authority, Night Time Economy Board, Centre for Progressive Policy and Darren Jones MP.
Since March the Board has been meeting frequently (weekly at the height of the pandemic) and quickly recognised the need to look ahead towards economic recovery and renewal.
“As Bristol faces the deepest economic depression since the 1930s it is imperative that we work together now to do all we can to keep those working to stay in work, help businesses to stay open, and provide new opportunities for those who are unemployed.
“The scale of the challenge presented by COVID-19 is significant and testing every system in our city. Livelihoods are being devastated. We must support business, promote innovation and work to attract new and established businesses into the city.
“We must stimulate the economy with infrastructure and regeneration projects that offer jobs, homes and investment opportunities to the city. It is without doubt that working in collaboration with businesses and partners across the city was, and will continue to be, a key strength and foundation of Bristol’s long-term economic response and recovery.
“The city’s recovery from COVID-19 must acknowledge that tackling poverty must go hand in hand with improving health and education, reducing inequality, stimulating growth and tackling climate change.”
Using the Boards extensive networks across the city, more than 300 organisations, many of whom are Chamber and Initiative members have inputted into Bristol’s Economic Recovery and Renewal Strategy which seeks to reduce poverty and inequality; increase the city’s resilience and environmental sustainability; and enhance the economic and social wellbeing of every community.
The strategy builds on the Statement of Intent that was published in June. It is centred around three pillars; People and labour markets, Business and Investment and Bristol’s Places. Each pillar identifies priorities for response and recovery. A detailed analysis of the evidence and context for each pillar is also provided, with inclusion and sustainability at the heart of all three pillars.
It is important to note that the Strategy is:
• The first phase of an iterative process,
• Based on the most recent evidence and data available,
• An attempt to set emerging strategic priorities for action and collaboration,
• A tool to identify areas for investment and some mechanisms for delivery,
• The result of a One City Approach.
The Strategy is not:
• Set in stone,
• Able to predict the course of the pandemic or its future impact,
• A fully comprehensive and costed delivery plan,
• Intended to take us back to where we were before,
• Meant to override existing recovery work among our businesses, organisations and communities.
James Durie, Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber & Initiative, and Co-Chair of Bristol’s Economy Board and West of England Economic Taskforce, said:“This strategy does not aim to simply steer our economy back to where it was at the start of the year, and recreate all the challenges that existed then. Instead, it aims to build a renewed economy. It aims to build a sustainable, carbon neutral and ecologically positive economy. It aims to build a fair, inclusive economy that supports growth in all our communities. It is closely aligned with the goals of our partners across the West of England, and it is measurable against the UN Sustainable Development Goals. And it is informed by an extensive programme of sector and community engagement.
The next step is to develop an Action Plan, setting out how we will meet these priorities, how much it will cost, when it will be achieved by, and who will need to get involved. Answering these questions will help make this more than just a document, and bring the One City Approach to life, but it will take a concerted effort from many different city partners working together. We are convinced that together, the city’s economy will not only be recovered, but renewed.”
Bristol’s Economic Recovery and Renewal Strategy compliments and extends economic renewal activity being undertaken at a regional level by the West of England Taskforce. Set up by West of England Combined Authority. Business West’s Phil Smith and Richard Bonner have been closely involved in the development of Taskforce’s overall strategy for the region as a whole.
Now more than ever it is important to have clear voice articulating the investment needed during and beyond this pandemic. Already this week our local MPs took part in a Westminster debate this week to make the case for further investment into capital projects in the city region.