New Lancashire LEP Annual Report analyses economic impact of Covid-19 and outlines county’s roadmap for recovery

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The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has published its 2020-2021 Annual Report. The 36-page document includes in-depth analysis of Lancashire’s economic performance during the pandemic, reviews the interventions deployed to mitigate the impact of lockdown on business, and outlines the LEP’s strategic, inclusive approach to help the county recover.

It further reiterates the LEP’s support of major projects such as the proposed Eden North scheme in Morecambe, its commitment to generating more Social Value through all of its investment programmes, and its continuing work with pan-regional initiatives such as the NP11 and Northern Powerhouse.

With regards to economic performance, the report illustrates how the contraction and growth pattern of Lancashire’s economy during the pandemic closely mirrored that of the North West region and the wider national picture. Through a series of graphs and detailed analysis it reveals that:

  •  Between April-June 2020, the number of hours worked in Lancashire dropped from over 1,000m to 842m per week
  •  The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Lancashire rose from 3.7% in March 2020 to 6.9% in May 2020
  • There were over 100,000 workers in Lancashire supported by the furlough scheme at the start of the pandemic, with around 85,000 still furloughed as of March 2021
  • Apprenticeship starts in Lancashire were down by 21% when compared to the previous financial year

However, the report also highlights that Lancashire’s volume of business creation has outperformed the North West average. According to Companies House, 14,000 new businesses were registered in Lancashire between 1st April 2020 and 31st March 2021, an increase of 17.1% from the previous year. In contrast, North West business creation grew by 16.7% in the same period.

The formation of thousands of new businesses – combined with many established firms seeking advice and guidance during Covid-19 – also accounts for the sharp rise in demand for business support. The report reveals that Boost, Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub, saw a 100% increase in enquiries, and a 50% increase in website traffic, during the height of the pandemic.

As a result, around 3,000 individual pieces of practical business guidance, expert advice and helpful signposting were delivered to local companies.

With regards to the some of the key Lancashire industries most severely affected by the pandemic, including aerospace, tourism, and hospitality, the role played by the LEP’s new business-led Sector Groups is featured in the report.  

Other Covid-specific responses – including £34m of Getting Building Fund investment secured by the LEP from government to help bring ten major projects forward to create new jobs, homes and infrastructure – are detailed.

In addition to capturing some of the key impacts and outcomes of the LEP’s work during Covid, the LEP’s report looks at the county’s roadmap to recovery, and outlines how a number of current strategies, frameworks and plans are undergoing review to address a range of post-pandemic challenges.

It further explores how a new Strategic Economic Framework is being developed for the county. This will include a Social Value Charter, an Internationalisation Strategy, industry-specific Sector Recovery Plans, and a Local Industrial Strategy.

Other priority areas, such as skills and employment, stakeholder engagement, innovation, and business finance, will be addressed.  

The LEP’s new Strategic Economic Framework will also help to inform the Greater Lancashire Plan (GLP), an initiative being led by Lancashire’s Leaders of Local Government.

The GLP is Lancashire’s bold, overarching vision for the county built on “inclusive growth, healthy communities and a cleaner world” which will be delivered through “a place-shaping strategy of public sector reform, economic growth and environmental sustainability”.

The LEP’s Chief Executive Sarah Kemp, said:

“Like many other parts of the country, Lancashire has been hit hard by the pandemic and this report doesn’t shy away from its impact and the challenges we face as we look to recover.

“However, it also demonstrates that many of our businesses have been incredibly resilient and innovative during this difficult period, and that Lancashire’s entrepreneurial spirit has spurred on many individuals to start their own ventures.

“This, combined with the effective grass-roots business support provided by agencies like Boost, and the strategic interventions being driven by our new Sector Groups, and other LEP initiatives, means we are already stimulating new economic growth as we emerge from the grip of Covid.”

David Taylor, Chair of the LEP, said: “This report clearly shows that despite the difficulties and disruption faced by many businesses, local communities and individuals, Lancashire has both the capability and capacity to rebuild as a stronger, fairer and more prosperous region.

“It further highlights how the LEP’s collaborations with government and local partners continue to generate significant employment, housing, skills and investment opportunities. In addition, it reiterates that the LEP is committed to major projects such as Eden North which have the potential to be transformational for the whole county.”

A copy of the LEP’s 2020-21 Annual Report can be downloaded from www.lancashirelep.co.uk

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