Agenda item

Staffordshire County Council’s Economic Strategy – Delivery Update

Report of Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills


The Committee considered a report of the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills updating them on progress made in the delivery of Staffordshire’s Economic Strategy 2023-2030 (schedule 2 to the signed minutes).


The Primary focus of the Strategy was:- (i) Town centres; (ii) Higher skilled and higher paid workforce; (iii) ‘Start-up’ and ‘step-up’ businesses; (iv) The development of investment ready projects and; (v) Strategic corridors. In addition, various other priorities and themes were identified as being important for the future growth of the economy. These included:- (i) Innovation; (ii) Supporting businesses on their journey to net zero and; (iii) Maximising the use of investment to unlock external funding.


The Cabinet Member then updated them on the potential impact of recent national and global economic headlines on the County and the Authority’s ability to deliver the various priorities set out in the Strategy. In addition, he updated them on the activity undertaken since June 2023 towards achieving the Authority’s various ambitions, as follows:-


Priority (i): Town Centre/High Street Regeneration


Ambition: “By 2030, we will tackle the challenges faced by many of our town centres and strive to create places that we can be proud of”.


(i) Establishment of a task force comprising local, regional and national Partners to co-ordinate support following the closure of Wilko shops in the County; (ii) continued delivery of central Government initiatives including Future High Streets and levelling-up Funds and Town Deals; (iii) establishment of a steering group to work with key Partners on delivery of the County Council’s Rural Economic Strategy including regeneration of Rural Hub Towns and; (iv) progress in the procurement of a Development Partner to assist in the design and delivery of the Eastgate Regeneration Scheme.


Priority (ii): Higher Skilled, Higher Paid Workforce


Ambition: “By 2030, we will address the low levels of skills across some parts of the County and support more of our residents to gain the high-level skills needed to take advantage of many better paid job opportunities”.


(i) Significant progress towards completion of major local capital projects eg Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group Skills and Innovation Centre and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Institute of technology; (ii) support given to local communities to access employment opportunities arising from the construction of the West Midlands Interchange development including recruitment of two dedicated Employment Brokers; (iii) growth in referrals to the Staffordshire Jobs and Careers Service via their on-line offer and attendance at various events throughout the County; (iv) continued delivery of courses by the Staffordshire Community Learning Service (SCLS) aimed at helping people into work or to up-skill; (v) receipt of £4.2m grant aid for the delivery of the national Multiply Programme aimed at boosting residents’ numeracy skills both at home and at work.


Priority (iii): Supporting Start-Up and Step-Up Businesses


Ambition: “By 2030, we will create the conditions to allow more people to start and grow their business within Staffordshire, thereby addressing our relatively low levels of business start-ups across large parts of the County.


(i) Continued delivery of various business support programmes and ‘start-up’ space across the County eg Shire Hall Business Centre; (ii) support given to over 500 members of the public through the Staffordshire Start-up mentoring programme; (iii) support given to 194 business owners by the Staffordshire Get Started and Grow scheme which provided help with marketing, accountancy and other professional services; (iv) successful launch of a series of peer to peer networks for new business who wanted to develop; (v) continued delivery of support to 130 residents through the Staffordshire My Own Boss scheme which aimed to help residents launch their own business and; (vi) work to transfer the functions of the former Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership to the County and Stoke-on-Trent City Councils.


Priority (iv): Innovation


Ambition: Build upon our existing strengths and future opportunities to increase innovation activity throughout the county, both within our businesses and innovation institutions.


(i) Engagement with the Hydrogen Valley Programme being delivered by Cadent and National Gas Transmission with the aim of establishing the hydrogen economy, attracting investment and exploring how infrastructure can secure long-term, low-cost hydrogen and; (ii) Commissioning of a study to consider the opportunities and feasibility of developing a further science park in the County to complement the Park already located at Keele university.


Priority V: Developing Investment Ready Projects


Ambition: By 2030, we will play our part in supporting the

substantial planned growth within the county through the

development of investment ready projects and securing funding for our infrastructure and services.


(i) Continued work with Partners to support planned growth in the County; (ii) progress in the delivery of the A38 Branston Interchange through funding secured from round two of the Levelling-up Fund; (iii) a successful bid for grant-aid from the Levelling-up Fund for the re-development of the Stafford Railway Station area; (iv) development of the Chatterley Valley West scheme to unlock a 43-hectare employment site which aimed to generate approximately 1,700 new jobs.


Priority (v): Strategic Corridors


Ambition: “By 2030, we will ensure we do not miss substantial opportunities afforded by our location in the centre of the Country by developing our key strategic A50/A500 and A38 corridors, including securing increased investment in innovation activities”.  


(i) Co-ordinated lobbying by senior politicians for further investment along the A50/A500 corridor following the announcement of the Network North Plan and; (ii) work on a publicity campaign to raise awareness of the opportunities presented by the A50/A500 with Central Government.


In the full and wide-ranging discussion which ensued Members gave detailed scrutiny to the progress made in realising the Strategy to date, asking questions, seeking clarification and raising areas of concern as necessary, including:- (i) the areas of greatest deprivation in the County and how they could assist in delivering the Strategy particularly in those neighbourhoods; (ii) the correlation between take-up of courses offered by the Staffordshire Community Learning Service eg Multiply and areas of high deprivation; (iii) the need to ensure a greater availability of affordable premises for small businesses; (iv) the opportunities for promoting life-long learning and further education to residents through the SCLS and; (v) how the County Council were supporting the development of new vehicle technologies eg hydrogen combustion, some of which were being pioneered in the County.


In response to (i) above, the Cabinet Member undertook to supply them with further information on the areas of high deprivation in the County. 


In conclusion, the Committee welcomed the significant progress which had been made in the delivery of the County Council’s Economic Strategy and re-affirmed their support for the various Priorities contained therein. However, they remained mindful of the challenges ahead arising from adverse national and international circumstances beyond the control of the Authority. In addition, they emphasised the importance of mitigating climate change and the achievement of Net Zero by 2030.


RESOLVED – (a) That the report be received and noted.


(b) That the good progress made towards delivery of the County Council’s Economic Strategy 2023-2030, be welcomed.


(c) That further updates on the various ambitions set out in the Strategy and targets in the accompanying Delivery Plan be brought to the Committee at six-monthly intervals.


(d) That scrutiny of the Authority’s Employment and Skills Strategy be undertaken at the appropriate time with advise from the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Employment and Skills.

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