This report provides an update on current evidence regarding the impact felt by South Kesteven’s economy since the implementation period ended and the United Kingdom left the European Union Single Market and Customs Union.
A report was presented by the Director for Growth and Culture to the Committee. The report provided insight into the impact felt since ‘Brexit’ by businesses within South Kesteven. A range of online and specialist support was provided to approximately 6,000 businesses.
The Director continued that there were five commonly reported issues faced by the business community within the district due to the UK’s exit from the European Union. A close look into the agric-food sector in particular identified seven county-wide issues.
The Committee were informed that while some level of disruption had been felt over the last 60 weeks, there has been no long-term negative impact on the local economy. Labour shortages had not impeded production or led to business closures. InvestSK Ltd would continue to design appropriate measures of support for business as necessary.
During discussion, the following points were raised:
· The transport industry had, at least nationally, experienced substantial delays in receiving product from Europe and issues in getting supplies to the supermarket shelf. This may worsen in the coming months.
· Is there specific data available on the number of enquiries received from businesses?
· Approximately £51 million was handed out by the Council in business grants. A Member asked for assurance that the Council followed the necessary procedures to ensure the appropriate grant was paid to legitimate businesses. The Government had referenced concerns regarding potential ‘scam businesses’.
· Over 3,000 local businesses received help when needed. Congratulations were expressed to officers for getting the help to those that required it in a timely manner.
· A Member asked if the Council had to contribute financially towards the helpline run by the Lincolnshire Growth Hub.
The InvestSK Ltd Manager confirmed that the report noted that delays in delivery of perishable goods was recognised both locally and nationally. The Council had addressed these concerns by looking at potential schemes to retrain people as HGV drivers. Training costs £3,000 per driver and discussions had taken place with local businesses.
The InvestSK Manager continued by informing the Committee that when awarding business grants, all checks and balances were done in advance of payment. The Council had been audited by the Government a number of times with satisfactory findings. It was stressed that any findings of fraud would be passed on to the Police.
Reference was made within the report to paragraph 1.12 which concerned the Lincolnshire Growth Hub and the EU exit helpline which was accessed by only 41 businesses. It was clarified that no financial contribution was required for the helpline for the Lincolnshire Growth Hub from the Council.
The Chairman stated that it was an excellent report on the local economy, however, the item had been put on the agenda to see what the direct impact on operations of the Council there was, post Brexit. From reading the report it seemed the Brexit had no impact on Council operations, employment, sourcing and provisions of Council services across the district.
It was stated that the content of the report was not specific to the Council but the economy of South Kesteven as an area and reference was made to the next item on the agenda in relation to the COVID-19 impact report. If the Committee required detail which was specific to the impact on South Kesteven as a Council then a further report would be required. It was noted that difficulties had arisen and an example was given in respect of the labour market and the acquirement of staff since Brexit.
A Member asked for it to be noted that the statement within the report (para. 1.4) that ‘everything else remained the same’ had been challenged robustly and that the statement was not entirely accurate.
Members noted the recommendations contained within the report.