Greater Brighton chiefs have started the ball rolling on an economic recovery plan for the area.
Business leaders, education bosses, politicians and civic leaders took part in a virtual meeting to assess the financial and economic damage from the coronavirus lockdown.
And they asked officials to work on recovery plans despite a great deal of uncertainty about the course of the health crisis and the harm to businesses and jobs.
Members of the Greater Brighton Economic Board also agreed that officials should not wait until the next formal meeting in July to make progress with necessary measures.
Brighton and Hove City Council leader Nancy Platts said: “What’s happened is a massive economic shock to all of us.”
But Councillor Platts praised the way that many small businesses in the area had adapted. Dozens of restaurants have, for example, switched to operating as takeaways, with delivery services.
The Labour council leader said that it was important to work out “how we recover from this”.
She said that it was possible that the current lockdown could be lifted only partially and perhaps even be reimposed in places or among certain groups at different times.
And she said that it was also possible that the local economy could go “in and out of recovery”.
Brighton University vice-chancellor Debra Humphris backed the call for a recovery plan and said that universities like hers were concerned about overseas students not taking up their places in the autumn.
This would mean a big drop in fee income – not just locally – that would affect Britain’s export revenues.
Nick Hibberd, the executive director of economy, environment and culture at Brighton and Hove City Council, said that officials were keen to move quickly.
They were aiming to put together a simple but quick recovery plan that built upon the points made by members of the Greater Brighton Economic Board.
And they would marry up their measures with the steps being taken by others such as government departments and the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Key concerns centred around travel, tourism and hospitality, with members also worried about broadband, energy and transport infrastructure.
Mr Hibberd said that the recovery plans would take into account the pipeline of investments planned across the Greater Brighton city region.
And they would also look at education and skills, the social welfare needs of people and communities, the likely rise in unemployment and how to handle the associated challenges.
Coast to Capital chief executive Jonathan Sharrock said that the LEP had already had constructive discussions with Councillor Platts, council chief executive Geoff Raw and the Greater Brighton Infrastructure Panel.
In the newly published Greater Brighton Economic Board’s annual report, Councillor Daniel Humphreys wrote: “The world in which we operate is obviously dominated not by plans for economic development but the coronavirus pandemic and the effects it is having on our region.
“Concern for our families, friends and communities is paramount.
“The immediate effects on our economy have been to cause great challenges for businesses and employers.
“The Greater Brighton Economic Board will have a large role to play in helping to boost employment numbers and opportunities again following this crisis.”
Councillor Humphreys, the Conservative leader of Worthing Borough Council, added: “The network of councils, education providers and business groups that the Greater Brighton partnership has brought together and fostered over the past five years has proven invaluable as a way to share best practice and to help each other through the crisis. And this is the main reason that we join forces.
“Our shared recognition that the realities of our economic area transcend the municipal boundaries within we which operate and that what is good for the economy in one area is good for the residents of the whole region is what binds us.
“As we emerge from the current crisis, we will continue to work together to ensure that we provide businesses and employers with the necessary platforms upon which they can best recover.
“Our work on environmentally sustainable growth will be more critical than ever in assisting the businesses in our region. And this is just one area in which we’re pushing forward.
“Our combined work to promote the region across the world, our emerging energy and water plans, the development of a world class digital infrastructure and support for our creative industries are all coming on at pace.
“Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic we had successfully raised the profile of the region and set forward persuasive arguments that Greater Brighton must not be overlooked in the ‘levelling up’ agenda.
“As we emerge from this crisis we’ll continue to ensure that our voice is heard loudly and clearly.”
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