Tuesday, August 17, 2021

News: How the council is spending Covid cash to support Rotherham economy


As part of a comprehensive £5m Covid recovery package, Rotherham Council is planning a number of interventions designed to support the local economy.

The wide ranging proposals include new measures to support children and young people with mental health and catching-up with lost learning, adults who are shielding or isolating, reskilling people whose jobs have been impacted and help for the homeless.

Money has come from the Government's Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF) which was set up to provide funding to local authorities in England to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and support local public health. A remaining pot of £3.357m is to continue to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 and support public health activities.

In total, £83.7m of business support grants have been delivered by the Council to over 5,000 businesses (many businesses have been able to access support through multiple schemes), but one key strand for the latest fund is support for people made redundant to reskill to improve employment chances.

A report to the council's cabinet said: "The closing of certain sectors of the economy has meant furlough for a significant number of residents, unemployment or loss of livelihood, all bringing with them reduced incomes and impacts on family budgets. For many those impacts will not yet be felt in full, with protections through furlough and until recently, the stay on evictions meaning the full impacts are still to come both for individuals and the wider economy.

"The hospitality industry and night-time conomy have been particularly hard hit along with leisure and tourism, the arts and the voluntary sector. Despite furlough and business support grants some businesses and organisations will not re-open. Others will remain sustainable in the long-term but may have had to take on debts which will impact profitability for years to come."

Nearly 44,000 workers in Rotherham have been furloughed during the pandemic.

£339,658 has been earmarked to boost the Council's team that currently delivers advice and support to unemployed and economically inactive residents through the match funded European Social Fund (ESF) Pathways Project. Skills and training could then be offered to people threatened with redundancy, people on furlough, people working reduced hours, people whose skill set is no longer in demand due to the pandemic and people within the gig economy affected by Covid-19.

A wraparound support service also works to help remove the barriers to employment such as debt/childcare issues etc.

Rotherham Council has also recieved £471,755 under the Government's Reopening the High Street Safely and Welcome Back Funds which aim to help local authorities support their local high streets get safely back to business, boost tourism, improve green spaces and provide more outdoor seating areas, markets and food stall pop-ups.

Rotherham Council's proposed activities for this funding includes:
- Events equipment to assist with safe distancing of crowds/visitors
- Support to develop a website promoting cultural attractions
- An events programme including town centre
- Markets signage, pavement vinyls, window vinyls for empty shops
- A new Saturday Market in Wath to attract footfall into the town centre
- Pop-up space for new small businesses and business support through RiDO
- Rotherham in Bloom campaign in the town centre
- Information Officers to work with retail and hospitality businesses
- Planters and external signage for Rotherham Civic Theatre
- Improvements to paths at Thrybergh Country to ensure accessible
- Outdoor furniture in high streets and green spaces
- Canopies to enable outdoor dining / events at Clifton Park and Rother Valley
- Street lighting banners with ‘Welcome Back’ and other key messages
- Promote Great Rotherham To Do List in support of reopening of the borough
- The Rotherham Show ‘Welcome Back’ programme and safety measures
- Christmas programme supporting animation of high streets & town centre
- Develop a befriending scheme to support those finding it difficult to go out
- Business intelligence from the retail and hospitality sector

Cllr. Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Council, said: “The Covid pandemic is not over yet but we know that even when it is, the damage it has wreaked will be felt by the people of Rotherham for many years to come – whether that’s through the loss of loved ones, impact on physical and mental health, financial problems, redundancy or impact on life chances.

“Phase one of our recovery plan for Rotherham aims to provide the support many people of all ages will need to reset, recover and restart over the next seven months. With so many people impacted by Covid, we have to be careful to target it at people with the most pressing needs – including children and young people, homeless people, people who care for others, people who have lost their jobs and people suffering mental health problems.

“This is the start of a long road to recovery and there is still more we have to do – as a Council and a community – to deal with the on-going impact and legacy of Covid-19 on our residents.”

Images: RMBC


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