Agenda item

Staffordshire Means Back to Business

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills



Decision – That the oral report of the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills giving an update on “Staffordshire Means Back to Business” activity including the following matters be noted: 


·       This month saw an increase of 405 claimants in Staffordshire, at the same time we have seen increases both regionally and nationally. This is reflective of the challenging economic conditions businesses continue to operate in across the country.  The total number of claimants in the county now stands at 15,165 and the claimant rate remains the same this month at 2.8% of the working age population.  It is important to note that the claimant count rate in Staffordshire continues to be one of the lowest in the West Midlands and is far lower than the average for the region of 4.9%, and lower than the average for England of 3.8%. We will continue to support those residents that unfortunately find themselves out of work to access employment through our dedicated Jobs Brokerage service. 


·       The youth claimant count in Staffordshire saw a decrease of 25 claimants this month to a total of 2,860 young people.  The proportion of young people in Staffordshire aged 18-24 that are claiming work-related Universal Credit remains the same at 4.6%.  This is lower than the national rate of 5.1% and far lower than the regional rate of 6.8%.  Whilst this decrease in the youth claimant count is positive our focus continues to be to engage with our younger residents and support them to find employment or continue in education and training. 


·       One of our key economic priorities is supporting residents in being able to take advantage of high-paid job opportunities, and I’m therefore pleased to be able to update Cabinet on the recently released earnings data which gives a good indication as to why, at least partly, disposable income has increased within Staffordshire.  The average weekly earnings of our residents are now the same as the national average, the first-time that this has been case.  Over the last year, the average earnings of our residents have increased by over 12% compared to just 5% across the West Midlands Region and England as whole.  Continuing to support the creation of highly paid, high-skilled jobs across Staffordshire and supporting our residents in gaining higher level skills will of course remain a key focus for us in 2024, ensuring we are doing all we can to put more money into people’s pockets. 


·       Adapting to climate change is evidently already a key consideration for businesses and developers across Staffordshire, with the developer of the first units on the West Midlands Interchange scheme aiming for the highest possible rating for energy performance of the buildings, including through the use of solar panels on the roof, something we have increasingly seen throughout the county in recent years. 


·       Supporting energy efficiency of our businesses is nothing new to us as the Staffordshire Business & Environment Network (sben) has been operating for over 30 years and has provided advice and delivered countless support programmes since its inception.  Last year saw the conclusion of our Low Carbon Business Evolution Programme (LCBEP) which ran for 7 years in partnership with sben and supported businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  The programme is estimated to have reduced carbon emissions by over 2,250 tonnes annually, supported over 350 businesses, provided £1.1 million in grants and unlocked £1.3 million in private sector investment. 


·       Whilst LCBEP has now concluded, we remain committed to supporting businesses to improve their energy efficiency and adapt to climate change requirements.  Our businesses can therefore now access our new Green Solutions programme which provides training, an energy efficiency review and a potential grant to implement energy saving measures.  Currently this programme is being funded utilising UK Shared Prosperity Funding provided by a number of our district and borough partners, although I’ll be updating Cabinet on the further development of this programme next month. 


Last month I updated Cabinet on our success in securing a Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP) for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent which has the potential to bring significant benefits including through access to support and future funding programmes.  Establishing the LVEP will be a key goal for the coming year and on Friday we have our Tourism and Hospitality Conference at one of our most important attractions, Alton Towers.  The event will give our businesses and partners an opportunity to learn all about how we are working directly with VisitEngland through the LVEP and feature guest speakers, workshops and opportunity to network with relevant people and organisations.  I look forward to updating Cabinet on this and all of our economic growth programme through 2024.