*** An update from the Leader of Warwickshire County Council ***
Cllr Izzi Seccombe
Warwickshire County Council
I am pleased to give you an update on events and activities at the County Council. Life is always busy and there is much going on at all levels of Government. I hope to capture a few things that may be of interest to you and would always be happy to hear from anyone on matters you may wish to follow up on. I apologies for the length in advance!
Best wishes Izzi ..
A Caring Council
We have done a great deal of work in ensuring Children in Warwick with SEND have positive outcome and opportunities. We are working with Business to help to find opportunities that will give young people a fulfilling role in work and society through our Fair Chance Employer initiative.
Warwickshire’s performance for children Not In Education and Training has been better than both regional and national comparators for the last 5 consecutive years, with 95% of 16/17 year olds in education and training in March 2021.
Child Friendly Warwickshire: Our new Children’s and Young People strategy was approved in October 2021 and our Child Friendly Warwickshire programme has launched in 2021. The Council provided 4,500 free laptops and dongles to vulnerable children to support their learning during lockdown.
The Council has been working with a significant number of organisations to support mental-health and wellbeing after what has been a difficult 20 months for many this is most welcome. We have also invested in additional programmes to support our residents of all ages, and have raised awareness of the issue of loneliness and social isolation.
Adult social care – recognised as a resilient, stable service with relatively low costs and good outcomes, as recognised by the recent peer review and low Discharge from Hospital figures have halved between 2017 and 2020. Satisfaction of people using adult social care is above both regional and national benchmark. We continue to work closely with the Care Provider Market at what is a fragile time nationally. There is a great shortage of Care Staff and in parts of the Country Providers are handing back contracts as they are unable to fulfil them. We are fortunate in the County that this has not appeared to be overly replicated here.
Domestic Abuse has risen during the Pandemic and we have conducted a needs assessment and re-commissioned a new Accommodation and Support Strategy and commissioned Refuge to deliver this service.
Economic Recovery - WCC moved quickly to establish a range of business support programmes to help business:
- Survive, Sustain, Grow - The flagship scheme has been our Survive, Sustain, Grow programme, providing specialist consultancy support. Over 600 businesses were supported through this programme, with 472 jobs safeguarded through support provided, and 141 new jobs created.
- Digital training for retail businesses – providing specialist support to retailers to help them both create and maximise their on-line presence.
- Adapt & Diversify – a £1.5m grant scheme, allocated over two rounds, providing small grants to businesses to help them invest in new activity that would enable them to exploit new growth opportunities. 120 businesses received grants, helping create 236 new jobs
- Business Interruption Loan Scheme - Providing £1.5m of much needed additional investment in a locally run Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) as it became apparent many businesses were struggling to access this through the mainstream banking sector
- Wellbeing support - Extending WCC’s employee well-being support programme to make it accessible for small businesses across the county to access to provide help and advice to employees who may be struggling
- Tourism & marketing - Undertaking a tourism marketing and promotion campaign for Warwickshire to help support a sector particularly hard hit through the pandemic. Through a series of marketing campaigns, engaging national press and media outlets, we reached a combined audience of around 47million people, and had over 50,000 people actively engaged in campaigns and competitions. A new Retail & Hospitality Recovery and Investment Grant Fund has also been launched. At the close of the first round, 192 applications had been submitted worth £1.1m.
- Skills hub - A Warwickshire Skills Hub has been developed which launched in September 2021 to support residents to make the most of their employability through upskilling and / re-skilling. We have seen an 80% increase in employer enquiries wanting to offer training and work opportunities as they build back their workforce
- Overall - Overall, through all our economic recovery work over the period April 2020-October 2021, we have:
i. engaged with 4,300 businesses
ii. provided direct support and assistance to 1,425 businesses
iii. supported 4,446 jobs and help create 764 new jobs
iv. given out £2.7m in grants to businesses and enabled provision of £3.1m of loans
Warwickshire Recovery Investment Fund (WRIF) – launched a £140m investment fund to use the Council’s financial resilience to stimulate and accelerate economic growth/recovery by filling identified gap in finance for businesses over the next 5 years. It will invest in the sectors of the future, green jobs, and property and infrastructure to attract inward investment to the county. Overall it is projected to create 2,200 new jobs, protect over 4,000 more and leverage £98m additional private sector investment into the county. This will protect Warwickshire and Coventry’s very strong economy, which thanks to the work of WCC and our partners grew by 65% between 2009 and 2018, the fifth fastest of any local authority area in the county.
Warwickshire Property and Development Group Ltd – we have set up a property and development group to develop WCC’s land assets for housing and employment/business premises. It will develop our land to contribute to the Government’s 300,000 homes target by delivering over 2,000 homes initially, 95k sq ft industrial and 42k sq ft retail. It provides a strong financial return for reinvestment into the county, and will maximise the benefits of WCC signing the first pilot collaboration agreement between an English Council and Homes England. WPDG will accelerate delivery of the Council’s policy objectives for the economy, jobs and climate change, and through its returns help us maintain services for those most vulnerable
Highways – According to the National Highways and Transport (NHT) Satisfaction Survey (carried out annually by Ipsos Mori and is the largest survey of local opinion about transport and highways in the UK), published in 2020 Warwickshire was named the UK’s joint top performing county council for highway maintenance in national highways and transport survey for the second year in a row.
· Broadband/5G – delivery has led to 99.5% of premises able to receive superfast broadband
· Utilising funding secured from the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles and the Getting Building Fund, we are installing 90 twin headed charge points (180 charging points) across the county, predominantly located in District & Borough off-street car parks, with some located on-street in our town centres and smaller market towns
· Securing funding for Project Gigabit (roll out of fibre broadband) for Warwickshire, and proactively support the roll out of 4G and 5G mobile phone connectivity
· Investment of £79.5m of Housing Infrastructure Grant (HIG) in the A5 in North Warwickshire, to support the delivery of the Local Plan and bring wider economic benefits to the corridor and the key sectors it supports (Logistics/Distribution and Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering)
Community Power – Warwickshire had a thriving voluntary and community sector pre-Covid, and the Pandemic has increased the scale, reach and impact of it. We are working with New Local to develop a clear offer for a ‘community powered Warwickshire’ and will be running a series of ‘ground breaker’ projects to test the boundaries of community-powered approaches post-Covid to amplify and support our major strategic initiatives with focused and effective work at the most local place levels. In November 2021, we launched a £1m Social Investment Fund to enable targeted interventions to support Warwickshire’s communities and enable community-based support for those disproportionately impacted by COVID.