An update on the work of the Glasgow Economic Recovery Group (GERG) in response to the pandemic and lockdown was given to Glasgow City Council today (9 March), alongside information on the group's next steps.
GERG was established in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020 which halted non-essential economic activity with the aim of developing a response to the immediate challenges of supporting the local economy and planning for Glasgow's medium and long-term economic recovery.
The membership of GERG came from Glasgow City Council and representatives of the businesses, academic, trade union and third sectors in the city.
In May 2020, the group submitted the city's response to the Scottish Government's Independent Advisory Group, following this up in June with a detailed implementation plan of Glasgow-specific actions and asks.
GERG has been considering the current economic situation in Scotland, with GDP levels falling 7.1% between February and March 2020, with the impact greater in some (notably accommodation and food services, and arts, culture and recreation) than others. The Scottish Fiscal Commission forecast for the Scottish economy points to a 5.2% decline in economic activity in the first quarter of 2021, but a recovery to follow with a 7.5% increase in 2022.
The group recognised that business support was and remains crucial, with cashflow and lower levels of turnover remaining a problem for many. Businesses as a whole, however, are positive about future activity and employment.
To support businesses affected by lockdown restrictions in the city, council officers have been administering a range of business grants made available by the Scottish Government. To date, over £197million has been paid out to businesses, with discussions ongoing with the Scottish Government on future grant funding.
GERG developed an Action Plan to meet the economic challenges of the pandemic, with actions focus on themes which include access; business; investment; assets; space and place; skills/labour market; digital connectivity; the consumption economy; the innovation economy; and trade and investment. The Plan will be continually reviewed to assess its effectiveness given the uncertain nature of the economic recovery.
Among the actions delivered through GERG has been the creation of the City Centre Task Force, with members representing local, national and UK government; the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from the retail, hospitality and events sectors. The Task Force was created through the recognition of the challenges facing the city centre and these sectors in particular, and its members developed a range of actions to support the city centre's recovery before and during the lifting of restrictions.
A key ask by GERG to the Scottish Government (June 2020) was the scaling-up and replication of the Glasgow Guarantee to support those people most affected by the economic impact of the pandemic, particular those leaving school, college and university. In August 2020, the Scottish Government announced the £120million Young Person's Guarantee, a scheme aiming to help people aged 16-24 access employment, training, volunteering or education, with Glasgow receiving £4.3million in 2020/21. Council officers are working with partner bodies at both local and national levels to deliver this programme in Glasgow.
£250,000 funding was made available to the council to enhance the PACE (Partnership Action on Continued Employment) scheme, which directly supports and advises those recently made unemployed as a result of the pandemic, focusing on the older age group.
A third employability support scheme is the two-year extension to the European Social Fund, supporting Glaswegians of all ages facing multiple barriers to employment, such as disability, lone parents, the BAME community, those with health conditions and people who face addiction homelessness or are ex-offenders.
The contribution to economic recovery that the film and broadcast sector can make was boosted earlier in 2021 with funding of £4million from Glasgow City Council and almost £8million from the Scottish Government to develop a TV Studio and Drama Production Hub at the Kelvin Hall. This hub will drive job creation, skills development and growth in the supply chain of this vibrant sector.
The council is also working on a 'Glasgow Narrative' which will showcase the city's assets and business edge on an international stage and drive inward investment, and this will be used alongside a new digital tool - Zoom Prospector - which highlights key city strengths such as specialisms, skills, talent and innovation districts.
Two major projects identified as priorities for economic recovery in the GERG Action Plan are Clyde Mission and the Glasgow Metro. In the case of Clyde Mission, council officers have been working with the Scottish Government to accelerate investment in the project, and in December 2020, funding of £11million - around £5million in Glasgow - was announced to support economic recovery. The development of the Glasgow Metro - a recommendation of the Glasgow Connectivity Commission - moved forward last month with its inclusion in Transport Scotland's Strategic Transport Project Review.
The availability of 'shovel-ready' infrastructure projects which can attract funding and drive immediate economic recovery is being considered, and details on these will be presented by the council to the Scottish and UK Governments.
The links between economic and social recovery have also been recognised with GERG's ratification of the development of a Community Wealth Building plan for Glasgow, with increasing evidence that such an approach brings benefits in health, wellbeing, and greater equality and inclusion.
Officers from the council are working on a new Glasgow Economic Strategy in recognition that pandemic has changed the city's economy, like other cities across the world. This new strategy will focus on three challenges facing the city - productivity, inclusive growth and climate change - and will be presented to a council committee later in 2021.
Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of GERG, said: "The Glasgow Economic Recovery Group has already made a significant contribution to our ability to respond, adapt and grow in what is a changed economic landscape. This partnership of the city's sectors delivered an Action Plan which will guide our economic recovery, and identified both those sectors and people most in need of support, and also the projects that could best drive a post-pandemic economy that benefits everyone in Glasgow."
GERG will formally wind down later this Spring, with actions being passed to the city's existing economic growth structures, including the Glasgow Economic Leadership Group and the Glasgow Partnership for Economic Growth.