Essex County Council has pledged its commitment to restart the county’s economy and help people recover from the pandemic, with dedicated measures to boost businesses, upskill people and create new employment opportunities in growth sectors including health and social care, construction and the green economy.
500 apprenticeships and 500 new Kickstart Essex placements will be created to provide employment opportunities to young people across Essex.
The Council’s 2021/22 Budget and 12-month Organisation Plan, produced under the most testing circumstances the Council has ever faced, was approved by Full Council on 23 February and sets out the measures for securing inclusive economic growth from which everyone can benefit.
Each year Essex County Council spends around £900 million of its budget on Essex businesses and in October 2020 announced a £100m economic growth investment strategy and £5m economic recovery fund which will be rolled out in 2021/22.
Unemployment is at a 30-year high in Essex, with young people under 25 feeling the greatest impact. The number of well-qualified adults (with skills at Levels 3 and above) is increasing but remains below the national average.
New measures will tackle increased unemployment and help people develop the skills they need to thrive post Covid-19. The Kickstart Essex scheme, launched in the county in 2020, will continue to support the creation of new jobs for 16-24 year-olds. It enables small and medium sized enterprises to access Government funding to pay a young person’s salary for six months, and so far 124 local businesses have registered, enabling 200 young unemployed people to get into work. Another 500 Kickstart Essex placements will be created in 2021/22.
The Essex Accelerator programme, which has been piloted since November 2020 with Colbea, will continue to support those at risk of unemployment, or recently unemployed, to set up their own businesses. The pilot eight-week intensive online course gave 25 people advice on starting out and enabled six new business start-ups, creating 12 new jobs. Four more courses will run in 2021.
Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Councillor Tony Ball, said: “We are dedicated to building back the Essex economy as our highest priority in the coming year and in a way that everyone benefits. We’ll get people back into work, give businesses the support they need to survive and grow, and enable people to grow their skills so they can thrive as Essex recovers. We will do all we can to get Essex back in business.”
On 23 February 2021 the Council allocated a further £7.2 million for Covid-19 business recovery grants, in addition to the £2.2 million for business adaptation grants announced in October 2020. A new Additional Business Support Grant was announced which is being made available to Essex self-employed people and small and medium-sized businesses who do not have rateable premises and have been excluded from accessing other Covid-19 financial support schemes. Grants of up to £5,000 are available.
An additional £1m of Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans has been made available, working with Let’s Do Business Finance, and an additional £2 million of investment to ensure a successful reopening of the Essex economy.
The extension of the Essex Business Adaptation Grant scheme until July 2021, meanwhile, will give many more businesses the opportunity to access grants of up to £1,500 to help them be safer for customers and employees. The grants can also be used to help diversify the way businesses operate, fund new technology and support home working.