“Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our health, our wellbeing, our communities and our economy, but I am confident that by working together, Renfrewshire will recover and renew to come back stronger.”
That’s according to Renfrewshire Council Leader Iain Nicolson, as he welcomes plans for Renfrewshire’s economic and social recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic.
Councillors will consider the ambitious plans next week which aim to create jobs and upskill employees, bolster business, invest in housing, tackle inequalities and improve the lives of people living and working in Renfrewshire.
Stark statistics within the reports lay bare the impact of the pandemic in Renfrewshire, with 293 local people having lost their lives.
The number of people claiming benefits rose by 80% at the height of the virus, while 6,000 crisis grant applications have been received, thousands have been supported through neighbourhood hubs and local community groups and Renfrewshire Foodbank has helped more than 4,000 adults and children.
Furlough support for Renfrewshire employees is estimated to equate to £115million and self-income support to almost £10million.
Councillor Nicolson said: “The pandemic has impacted on all parts of daily life and in some cases exacerbated existing vulnerabilities or created new difficulties. Many people and businesses have been impacted, through bereavement, loss of income, isolation and loneliness.
“Since the outset, Council staff have been working tirelessly together with community groups and local volunteers as well as with national agencies to support people during these unprecedented times, and the collective response has been phenomenal.
“This work continues and while the true impact of the pandemic will take time to fully emerge, we have been carrying out detailed research and together with community groups, local businesses and economic leaders, we have been preparing our plans for recovery and renewal.”
The two-year economic recovery plan has been prepared with, and approved by, Renfrewshire’s Economic Leadership Panel, which pools business expertise from major local employers and skills and enterprise agencies.
It is underpinned by economic analysis by the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute and by a summer survey of 500 local companies, with further data being collected next spring following the end of the furlough scheme and the Brexit transition period.
Detailing 14 priority actions the panel believe will make the biggest difference locally, the report focuses on support for business, young people, wellbeing, skills and employability, fostering a green recovery and on capital investment.
Councillor Nicolson added: “The building blocks of Renfrewshire’s economy have been consistently strong for some time and there are significant opportunities for growth after the pandemic with a strong business base, excellent educational facilities and £500million in capital investment well under way.
“We will build on this by creating jobs and training opportunities for our young people, including 150 new apprenticeships, with targeted projects to tackle unemployment and reduce health inequalities, and measures to bolster the skills and innovation of our significant manufacturing sector. To achieve this plan, all partner agencies will have a key role to play and by combining our knowledge and expertise, we can achieve so much more.”
Tackling inequalities is at the heart of the developing social renewal plan for Renfrewshire, which is being prepared through a public survey of 1,500 people combined with ‘listening events’ with community groups during winter 2020, to better understand the impacts of COVID-19 and involve local people in identifying solutions to the issues they face.
Council Depute Leader Jim Paterson said: “Local people and communities continue to experience significant impacts on their lives resulting from the pandemic and sadly the initial findings suggest it is most affecting people on low incomes and in insecure employment, in particular women and young people.
“The social renewal plan will act as the blueprint for how we will work with our partners to learn from the pandemic and build on this experience to tackle the inequalities that exist in our communities.”
Councillors will also be asked to approve plans for at least £100million of additional investment over the next 10 years in Council housing across Renfrewshire, with the first phase targeting investment to eight areas across Johnstone, Paisley and Renfrew.
Communities, Housing and Planning Convener Councillor Marie McGurk said: “Coronavirus has underlined the importance of our home on our wellbeing and the need to live within a supportive community environment.
“This planned investment will provide a step-change in housing conditions for Council tenants by enhancing properties inside and out, making them more energy efficient and creating safe, welcoming neighbourhoods.
“At each location, we will develop comprehensive regeneration place plans, engaging with tenants and the wider community to create places to be proud of through a mix of improvements and new homes, this approach will continue the recent investment by the council and housing associations which will see more than 1,000 affordable homes completed by 2022.”