Coronavirus: Council to set up two multi-agency task forces to mitigate impact of virus on county
Shropshire Council is to establish two multi-agency task forces to help address and minimise the economic and social impacts of coronavirus on the county.
The two task forces will enable the council to develop and focus on its recovery plans, and each will involve members of the council’s Cabinet, local experts, and representatives of the council’s partner organisations.
The economic task force will look at how to support local businesses and the local economy through the predicted recession; the social task force will look at issues including universal credit and housing.
Both will enable the member agencies to to share knowledge, data, evidence, actions, responses and resources.
Peter Nutting, Leader of Shropshire Council, said:
“Coronavirus has had a huge impact on Shropshire – on our residents, our businesses, and on our economy. Its impact has been felt across the county in many different ways. Many people have lost their jobs, many have been furloughed, many have faced health or personal challenges, many people face uncertain futures.
“We know that there will be tough times ahead, which is why we’ve set up these new task forces to help us minimise the impact of the pandemic on local people and companies in the weeks, months and years ahead.
“Latest figures show that the Shropshire economy is being disproportionately hit by the coronavirus impact, and current estimates are that we could see unemployment increase by around 11,000, to around 15,000 – that’s a rise of nearly 400%. We’ve already seen a 50% increase in universal credit claimants between March and April, and Bridgnorth Job Centre has seen the second highest level of universal credit claims in the region.
“We’ve been doing – and are doing – all that we can to support local businesses and local people affected by the pandemic.
“To date we’ve awarded Government grants of £70m to county businesses and we expect to support around 8,500 businesses in total. But there are still a large number of vulnerable businesses, and the self-employed are particularly vulnerable.
“We estimate that it’s likely to take years to get back to January 2020 employment levels. Public finances will be tight, but we need to cost up a wider recovery programme and make the case to Government for additional funding.
“These task forces will enable the council and the county’s experts and specialists to determine how we can best help Shropshire people and businesses.
“In the meantime, people can do their bit to help by following the Government’s social distancing measures and other public health guidance to help us beat coronavirus.”
1) Membership of the task forces
The economic task force will include:
- Peter Nutting, Leader of Shropshire Council, and Cabinet member for strategy
- Steve Charmley, Deputy Leader, and Cabinet member for assets, economic growth and regeneration
- Steve Davenport, Cabinet member for highways and transport
- David Minnery, Cabinet member for finance and corporate support – covers business rates and grants
- Lezley Picton, Cabinet member for culture, leisure, waste and communications – covers tourism
The social task force will include:
- Lee Chapman, Cabinet member for organisational transformation and digital infrastructure – covers health and care systems
- Gwilym Butler, Cabinet member for communities, place planning and regulatory services
- Robert Macey, Cabinet member for housing and strategic planning
- Ed Potter, Cabinet member for children’s services – covers young people
- Dean Carroll, Cabinet member for adult social care, public health and climate change – covers fuel poverty
Representatives of the council’s partner organisations will also be invited to join.
2) Universal credit
Between March and April 2020 the number of universal credit claimants in the Shropshire Council area increased from 9,521 to 14,322, an increase of 50.6%.
In the West Midlands the number rose by 35%, and across England there was a rise of 39.4%. Telford and Wrekin saw a rise of 49.6%.
The large rise in Shropshire is due to the service-biased nature of the county’s economy (visitor economy, hospitality, food, retail etc). The figures for Bridgnorth also factor in some of the large manufacturing businesses that have been furloughing staff.
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