Glasgow City Council has been given an update report on how the city has responded to the economic impact of the pandemic and lockdown.
The first response of the city and its partners in the private, academic, trade union and third sectors was the creation of the Glasgow Economic Recovery Group (GERG). GERG was established following the Covid-19 lockdown in late March 2020 – which halted non-essential economic activity – with the aim of developing a response to the immediate challenges of supporting the local economy and planning for the city’s medium and long-term economic recovery.
An early piece of the group’s work was its submission in May 2020 of the city’s response to the Scottish Government’s Independent Advisory Group, following this up in June with a detailed implementation plan of Glasgow-specific actions and asks, and the development of an Action Plan that was agreed in August 2020.
The group considering the economic situation in Scotland, and recovery trends in terms of GDP and unemployment levels. There was a recognition that business support would be crucial during this time, and council officers have so far allocated around £284million to Glasgow businesses in Scottish Government funds.
Another key action of the group was the establishment of the City Centre Task Force, with members representing local, national and UK government; the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from the retail, hospitality and events sectors. The Task Force was created in recognition of the particular challenges facing the city centre and these sectors in particular, with sharply reduced footfall, and its members developed a range of actions to support the city centre’s recovery before and during the lifting of restrictions.
GERG developed an Action Plan to meet the economic challenges of the pandemic, with actions focus on themes which include access; business; investment; assets; space and place; skills/labour market; digital connectivity; the consumption economy; the innovation economy; and trade and investment. The Plan will be continually reviewed to assess its effectiveness given the uncertain nature of the economic recovery.
GERG also asked the Scottish Government (June 2020) to scale-up and replicate of the Glasgow Guarantee to support those people most affected by the economic impact of the pandemic, particularly those leaving school, college and university. The pandemic has had a notable economic impact on young people. In August 2020, the Scottish Government announced the £120million Young Person’s Guarantee, a scheme aiming to help people aged 16-24 access employment, training, volunteering or education, and Glasgow received £4.3million of the £30million allocated to Scottish local authorities in 2020/21.
Further funding for people in other demographic groups came from two other sources: firstly, £250,000 funding was made available to the council to enhance the PACE (Partnership Action on Continued Employment) scheme, which directly supports and advises those recently made unemployed as a result of the pandemic, focusing on the older age group; and the two-year extension to the European Social Fund, supporting Glaswegians of all ages facing multiple barriers to employment, such as disability, lone parents, the BAME community, those with health conditions and people who face addiction homelessness or are ex-offenders.
The contribution to economic recovery that the film and broadcast sector – traditionally, a sector in which Glasgow performs very well – can make was boosted earlier in 2021 with funding of £4million from Glasgow City Council and almost £8million from the Scottish Government to develop a TV Studio and Drama Production Hub at the Kelvin Hall. This hub will drive job creation, skills development and growth in the supply chain of this vibrant sector.
The council was also updated today on the further development of a ‘Glasgow Narrative’ which will showcase the city’s assets and business edge on an international stage and drive inward investment, and this will be used alongside a recently-launched digital tool – Zoom Prospector – which highlights key city strengths such as specialisms, skills, talent and innovation districts.
Two major projects identified as priorities for economic recovery in the GERG Action Plan are Clyde Mission and the Glasgow Metro. In the case of Clyde Mission, council officers have been working with the Scottish Government to accelerate investment in the project, and in December 2020, funding of £11million – around £5million for projects in the city – was announced to support economic recovery. The development of the Glasgow Metro – a recommendation of the Glasgow Connectivity Commission – is now included in Transport Scotland’s Strategic Transport Project Review.
A more recent development is the Scottish Government’s announcement on Green Ports, which adapt the UK Government’s Freeport proposals with tax and custom reliefs offered on the condition of adopting Fair Work practices and contributing to Net Zero targets. Glasgow City Region is working on a bid with private sector partners.
In addition, the availability of ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure projects which can attract funding and drive immediate economic recovery is being considered, and details on these will be presented by the council to the Scottish and UK Governments. The work of GERG has led to the council calling for a Green New Deal, with green infrastructure projects at the heart of the city’s new economic plan.
The links between economic and social recovery have also been recognised with GERG’s ratification of the development of a Community Wealth Building plan for Glasgow, with increasing evidence that such an approach brings benefits in health, wellbeing, and greater equality and inclusion. Work on procurement and vacant & derelict land – two of the five pillars of Community Wealth Building – has been undertaken.
Officers from the council are working on a new Glasgow Economic Strategy in recognition that pandemic has changed the city’s economy, like other cities across the world. This new strategy will focus on three challenges facing the city – productivity, inclusive growth and climate change – and will be presented to the council in late 2021.
Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “The Action Plan which the Glasgow Economic Recovery Group developed has already made an economic impact and will continue guide our economic recovery in a way that meets our objectives. The need to respond to the major economic challenges posed by the pandemic led to the establishment of the group, and its members – representing sectors from across the city – rose to the challenge.”
While GERG has now wound down, its Executive group – with members from the city council, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, and the academic sector – will continue to meet to oversee the implementation of the Action Plan.