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Agenda item

COVID 19 Update - Local economy/Employment

Minutes:

Stephen Biggs, Project Consultant and Caroline Wilson, Head of Inclusive Economic Development were present and outlined the report, and made a presentation thereon, copies interleaved

 

During the presentation the following main points were made –

 

·         A significant minority of Islington’s workforce, and employed residents were in a vulnerable economic position prior to the pandemic, working in low paid insecure jobs

·         Many residents were running small micro businesses are disproportionately owned by women and people from BAME communities

·         After COVID hardest hit sectors were predominantly, but not exclusively, classed under Accommodation and Food sectors and Arts, Entertainment and Recreation

·         London’s unemployment rate has risen faster than other regions, and Islington’s unemployment rate has risen from 3% of the workforce to 7.3% in October, lower than the London average.

·         Youth unemployment appeared to be lower than average rate for the borough but has risen by 14% on May figures

·         An increase in vacancies in August, across the board, was perhaps an early sign of recovery, however the situation remains unstable

·         Despite encouraging signs local people are likely to experience deteriorating economic conditions, and enduring market uncertainties, however the Chancellor’s announcement of the furlough scheme  came too late with many employees already receiving redundancy notices

·         In Islington unemployment has more than doubled since the pandemic began, and the number of workers on furlough rose 36% between June and August to 31000 people

·         In addition to enhancing existing work programmes there are four key strategic lines of response to support Islington’s residents and workers – Prioritise policies that support health and incomes of already disadvantaged people, support people into employment, strengthen the Council’s role as an economic agent, and continue to pioneer an inclusive, fairer local economy

·         Community wealth building – core component of Council’s Fairness Commission focusing on tackling economic inequality and disadvantage. This strengthens the Council’s role as an economic agent, in order to use its assets to build an inclusive local economy, and provide an opportunity for local residents. Also to engage local partners, and ensure the Council is well placed to challenge the challenges of COVID, have an impact on the local economy and employment, and support a strong and sustained economy

·         Noted that the Council is working hard to support LBI residents and businesses in a fast changing climate of economic  challenge and uncertainty

·         The health and care sector has been least affected by COVID

·         The Council’s response is to prioritise support for those disadvantaged residents who lose their jobs and to support people into work

·         Strengthen the Council’s role as an economic agent, and continue to support  fairer, more inclusive economy

·         Noted that there is a good working partnership with the Health and Care sector, and that the Council were looking at green jobs in consultation with industry, and working with other Boroughs to create economic clusters as to how young people are better able to target jobs, and a new employability programme had been established

·         Affordable workspaces have also been created, and work is taking place with the fashion industry in this regard. City University is moving into the Farringdon workspace

·         In response to a question, it was stated that there is a need to ensure that employers paid at least the minimum wage, and this needed to be enforced. Members were informed that the Council did work with HMRC, and had lobbied them in this regard, to ensure that businesses met their obligations. Where the Council had direct influence they ensured that the LLW was paid by employers, and that further details of how the Council dealt with the minimum wage enforcement would be reported to Members

·         In response to a question, it was stated that the Council did provide assistance to small businesses, as they often found it difficult to bid for Council contracts, In the New Year the Business Development Programme would look at how small businesses in the borough can be supported more effectively, and to ensure tendering processes were simpler, and how they could assist local businesses to tender for work. It was stated that a future report should be submitted monitoring progress in this regard, and how successful local businesses were in winning contracts

·         A Member referred as to whether the Council had an Assets register, and it was stated that work is taking place in this regard, and that better data should be available in the New Year, and this would hopefully be available in 6 months time

·         Members were informed that work is taking place with CANDI, and a jobs fair had been facilitated that had resulted in 80 live job opportunities. Work is taking place with City University on a skills recovery programme so that residents can be supported to be placed in the most suitable jobs

·         In response to a question as to the effect on BAME self-employed residents/businesses, and those in domiciliary care, it was stated that there is an opportunity to look with Adult Social Care as to how opportunities for local businesses in domiciliary care could be assisted to bid for contracts, and work is taking place with L.B.Camden in this regard and that Members could be informed of progress in this regard

·         In response to a question it was stated that there were a range of business support grants available to support business, and there were also discretionary grants available, and there is contact with businesses on a regular basis. There is an online form that businesses can complete to apply for grants ,and that details of these could be circulated to Members of the Committee

·         A Member referred to the fact that market traders had not been eligible for grants during the first lockdown. It was stated that this was an area the Council had not initially got right, however eligibility would be more clearly explained in order that market traders could now apply for grants

·         In response to a question, it was stated that work is taking place with the ‘silicone roundabout’ to ensure that opportunities are available for local residents, and that affordable workspaces were available in Bunhill ward to enable training opportunities to be accessed. Work is also taking place with the DWP, who are undertaking a recruitment campaign for work coaches and also work availability on the vaccinations programme, and to assist residents on how to complete application forms

·         In response to a question as to whether there were discussions taking place with employers as to the working conditions e.g. available toilets, parking for delivery drivers, it was stated that the Council were engaging with local Ward Councillors in Finsbury Park ward, and the GLA and TfL on parking. In addition, discussions had taken place with McDonalds as to delivery drivers and also around the use of pedal bikes instead of mopeds, given the introduction of low traffic neighbourhood

·         It was stated that in relation to housing contracts and major repairs a report had been submitted to the Executive recently in this regard, and it was stated that there is a need to ensure social value is paramount  in letting of such contracts in the procurement process

·         In response to a question as to whether the Council is addressing deprivation and job losses on deprived estates, such as the Marquess Estate, it was stated that residents needed to be supported to enable them to obtain employment, to provide crisis support, food where necessary, to maximise benefits, assist with debt support and that work is taking place in this regard

 

RESOLVED:

(a)  That the report be noted and a report be submitted to a future meeting of the Committee as to the success of local businesses tendering for contracts, compared to the present

(b)  That details of the online form referred to above where businesses can apply for grants be circulated to Members

           

 

The Chair thanked Stephen Biggs and Caroline Wilson for their presentation

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