The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has launched an Economic Recovery Plan setting out how it will work with local partners to support the economy and businesses as they continue to address challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan sets out a three-stage approach to recovery: Survival, Stability and Growth. These set out immediate response activities being taken forward, work to support the area's adjustment to the new normal through increasing adaptability and resilience, and activity that will lay the foundations for investment in longer-term growth and prosperity.
Initial phases of the plan aim to give the Solent the strongest possible platform for recovery over the next two years and build on existing measures established by the LEP including Small Business Recovery Grants, Pay it Forward Crowdfunder support, rural resilience funds for the New Forest and Isle of Wight and Restart, Restore and Recover Loan Fund.
Coinciding with the launch of the Economic Recovery Plan, the Solent LEP has responded to the Government's invitation for Comprehensive Spending Review representations with a call to back the delivery of the plan.
Key areas in which the LEP is seeking government support include establishing the Solent as a Tourism Zone, which will bring forward a coordinated visitor offer and boost the off-season economy for one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.
The LEP is also seeking investment to continue and enhance its programme of funding and support for SME businesses through the Solent Growth Hub. On skills, the LEP is seeking support for the expansion of the Solent Apprenticeship Hub and continuation of the Solent Careers Hub to help ensure people in the Solent can achieve the right skills to retain or secure employment and also to support industry as it seeks to respond to the ongoing economic challenges. Alongside this extension of existing activity, the Solent LEP is calling for the establishment of a Solent Institute of Technology focused on Maritime and Advanced Manufacturing Technology.
Building on the success of the recent Getting Building Fund, the Solent LEP is also seeking investment in a Solent Growth and Recovery Fund to bring forward the next wave of investments that will deliver jobs and homes in local communities and secure green growth of the economy.
Alongside activity in response to the pandemic, the submission also seeks to support the area through the EU transition process and calls for the establishment of Freeport status at the Port of Southampton and Portsmouth International Port. Freeport status for the Solent's ports will enable the area to strengthen trading relationships with the world and act as a catalyst for the regeneration of coastal communities.
Brian Johnson, chair of the Solent LEP, said: "Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic and associated public health restrictions have had an immense impact on all our businesses and communities, we recognise that businesses are being impacted in different ways and on different timeframes. The Economic Recovery Plan will help shape our activity to support local businesses throughout each phase of their recovery and we are looking to Government to help us continue and strengthen this support across the region. Additional support is particularly critical now as we enter the winter period; we welcome the Governments Winter Economic Plan and stand ready to work with Government to support our businesses through the challenging months ahead.
"Our immediate focus and priorities in delivering our Economic Recovery Plan are on immediate survival and recovery over the next two years. However, we remain fully committed to securing the long-term growth and prosperity of the Solent. The plan represents the first steps on our journey to 2050 and vision for the Solent to be the global leader in maritime and climate change adaptation, with towns and cities that are fantastic places to live, trade and with opportunities for all our communities to flourish."