The purpose of this report is to share a first draft of the emerging South Kesteven Economic Development Strategy (2023 – 2028) and provide recent data relating to key economic drivers for the District.
The Leader of the Council presented a report on the draft Economic Development Strategy.
Growth and our Economy is one of the five strategic priorities contained within the current Corporate Plan (2020-2023). The Council had several key roles to play in delivering economic growth and allowing the private sector to grow and create new jobs. The consultation process was to start today and an action plan to be developed over coming months, linked to key performance indicators.
The first draft of the emerging Economic Development Strategy was presented to Members, due to be adopted from 1 April 2023 to ensure the focus and priorities were sufficiently captured and where the Council could have the greatest impact through leadership, influence and delivery against its own priorities. During 27 June 2022 meeting of this Committee, Members were made aware that a scoping exercise was underway to bring forward a new Economic Development Strategy for the District to cover the period 2023 – 2028.
Several reasons for why a new Strategy was required were given:
· The previous strategy having expired in 2021
· The closure of InvestSK Ltd and the economic development function being insourced from April 2022
· The economic landscape post European Union Transition and the COVID-19 pandemic
· The emerging Government Levelling Up agenda and the replacement of European Structural Funds with the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).
A key element of the report was the updated economic intelligence which provided a number of local data sets gathered from the Office of National Statistics (ONS/ Nomis), The Centre for Entrepreneurs (CfE) and Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor (STEAM). This was the most up to date economic data available and provided a great deal of information about the District across eight key indicators:
· Population of South Kesteven: 143,200 (ONS 2021 census)
· Households in South Kesteven: 55,894 (ONS 2021 census)
· Businesses in South Kesteven: 6,265 (ONS 2022)
· Net gain business growth between 2017 and 2022: 345 (ONS 2022)
· New Businesses Start Ups in 2020: 926 (Centre for Entrepreneurs)
· South Kesteven Businesses Employ: 54,000 (ONS 2021)
· Average resident earnings: £583 per week (Nomis 2021)
· Visitors to South Kesteven in 2021: 2.72m (STEAM 2021)
Further analysis of the data provided information regarding a breakdown of the business sectors in the District, detailing the number of businesses and number of people employed within each sector. This information had been vital in allowing the identification of the key sectors within the South Kesteven economy, namely:
· Manufacturing (and Engineering)
· Construction • Retail and Wholesale
· Accommodation and Food Services
· Professional, scientific and technical
· Business administration and support services
The strategy identified links to other plans and partner organisations the Council were to collaborate on, to meet the aims of the strategy. These were identified within the strategy and included: Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Department for Work and Pensions, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce and several local business support groups and educational establishments.
Over £16 million of external funding was secured to deliver projects, support community groups, fund COVID-19 response activity and enhance educational facilities. It also identified £53 million of COVID business support, administered by Officers and recognised as an exemplar at the recent FSB Local Government Awards.
Members raised the following points during discussion:
· It was important to have a strategy that would work and receive positive changes. What obstacles may be faced?
· The Council had to be realistic. The district economy was 100 times larger than what the Council spent annually.
· There was always room for improvement. A wish to see more highly-paid manufacturing jobs was expressed as well as export figures.
· Defined SMART and measurable objectives could have been incorporated within the strategy and more detail given.
· There is a national labour shortage. How could the Council rectify this?
· There were so many positive factors to the area of South Kesteven – good education and fantastic history. Connectivity was weaker in the south of the district and people should have been encouraged to spend money in the area and not in neighbouring counties such a Leicestershire or Cambridgeshire.
· The St Martins Park development could be included in the final version of the strategy.
· There were no factors that made the strategy specific to the area of South Kesteven.
· ‘Ample green space and community facilities’ were not consistent across the whole district, particularly in The Deepings.
· It was great to celebrate achievements but there needed to be acknowledgement that hard times were continuing such as the cost-of-living crisis.
· It was acknowledged that there were many commuters who did not spend their days within the area although the recent hybrid ways of working were bringing change to residents working habits.
The Economic Development Manager informed Members that potential obstacles included a shortage of employment land in the right place but that this was being reviewed in the Local Plan. South Kesteven had a low unemployment rate which was a difficulty when talking to potential investors. While being located next to the A1 was very beneficial, businesses in the area were generally risk-adverse, particularly following the pandemic. Going forward, the Council would have the Shared Prosperity Fund which could be linked to similar schemes to those that the Council ran during the pandemic, to assist businesses with their growth and resilience.
The Leader of the Council informed Members that the Council needed to provide the enabling factor for businesses to grow by working with partners such as Lincolnshire County Council and significant landowners. There was a shortage of young people staying in the area as they moved away for education and did not return. Providing affordable housing could support their potential return. Prices were higher in the south of the district due to the connectivity to London and Peterborough for commuters but facilities needed to remain local to attract residents to stay within the district.
The Director for Growth and Culture confirmed that a section on the implications would be included in the next draft version and brought back before the Committee.
It was proposed, seconded, and AGREED:
That the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Service Overview and Scrutiny Committee:
a) Considered and offered feedback on the first draft of the South Kesteven Economic Development Strategy (2023 – 2028).
b) Agreed the Council should consult on the draft strategy with Council members and the local business community, prior to final approval for adoption by 1 April 2023.