To consider a report to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership on the progress of the Oxfordshire Economic Recovery Plan, overseen by the Economic Recovery Task Group, and the headline performance of the Oxfordshire economy as it emerges from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Panel considered a report – and detailed appendix – setting out an update on the progress of the Oxfordshire Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) and the headline performance of the county’s economy as it emerged from the challenges of the pandemic. Ahmed Goga, Director of Strategies & Programmes at OxLEP, highlighted that the report identified the need for a system wide approach to both the recovery and the co-ordination of resources amongst partners. This would help to maximise investment to support local communities and businesses.
The Chair stated his support for the points made within the report regarding the importance of joint working to support the economic recovery within Oxfordshire. He made clear that HM Government should consider and simplify the process for local authority funding to encourage such a system wide approach. These comments were endorsed by the Panel as a recommendation to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership.
In discussion, the Panel raised the following points in summary:
· The report indicated (in paragraph 17) that opportunities for apprenticeships in science remained low. It was felt by members that, in addition to growing the number of science related apprenticeships, it was also important to increase those available in manufacturing (and, thereby, promote careers in this sector). The Panel noted the presence of high-tech manufacturing and related industries within Oxfordshire – e.g., in the automotive sector (Formula 1) and the manufacturing of vaccines.
· Unemployment amongst young people remained a particular concern. The Panel noted that, while unemployment amongst this cohort was generally falling, there was a significant challenge in relation to young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs). Furthermore, although OxLEP was working with community organisations and education providers to help address the issues around NEETs through specialist projects, several of these initiatives were not yet funded.
· The promotion of the job, training and skills opportunities for young people should be made available in a format that was both interesting and engaging. The Panel was informed that OxLEP had produced several short videos tailored and produced by young people themselves. It was agreed by members that the details of these should be circulated.
· While a system wide approach to tackling the challenges arising from the pandemic was supported, it was suggested that, when monitoring and evaluating the projects within the ERP, data should be tracked in a disaggregated format.
· Several projects within the ERP, such as improvements to visitor coach arrivals, had the potential to contradict with wider environmental and carbon reduction objectives e.g., the promotion of Active Travel. It was also important to promote, where possible, the pedestrianisation of public spaces such as town squares.
· It was felt that the staff shortages and recruitment issues affecting the visitor economy were also impacting other sectors of the Oxfordshire economy e.g., logistics.
· It was agreed that officers would investigate what unemployment and ward level data was available and circulate it to the Panel.
· Members referred to the transport schemes referenced within the ERP appendix as ‘Tran 1 to Tran 8’. They requested further information as to how they are broken down by district, with particular emphasis on what cycling schemes existed, or were planned, outside of Oxford City
· As provision of easily accessible and useable infrastructure was critical to the take up of electric vehicles, the Panel expressed concern that the Oxfordshire-wide Park and Charge Project was shown to be experiencing significant issues and delays. It was agreed that an update on its current status would be established.
RESOLVED: To recommend that the Future Oxfordshire Partnership:
1. Request that HM Government consider ways to simplify and rationalise the process by which it considers local authority bids for funding through initiatives such as the Community Renewal Fund and Levelling Up Fund, so as to encourage a system wide approach.
2. Agree recommendation 2 of the ERP report around the need for partners to continue to undertake a whole system response to securing economic recovery and that specifically, this includes, but not be limited to, a system wide approach to town centre renewal and the promotion of manufacturing as a sector.
3. Provides feedback that the Economic Recovery Plan should draw on wider dis-aggregated data that helps to show how some sections of society may be disadvantaged through the economic recovery, particularly for young people who are not in education, employment, or training. This will be useful to inform targeted interventions.