Western Morning News (Saturday)

Council calls for long-term planning

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PLYMOUTH City Council’s leader Tudor Evans is calling on the Government to set up a long-term economic recovery strategy for 2021 as the country faces what could be the worst recession for 300 years.

The leader of the Labourcont­rolled authority has outlined the steps he believes are necessary to provide more certainty for businesses and extra support for workers as the economy struggles with the impact of the pandemic.

Cllr Evans sets out his views in a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, which has been published by the city council, highlighti­ng a prediction from the Office for Budget Responsibi­lity that the UK economy will have shrunk by 11.3 per cent in 2020, described as the biggest decline in 300 years.

The Labour leader welcomes the latest economic support package for the third national lockdown, as the country faces a worst hit than the 2008 financial crisis, but adds that the council is “increasing­ly concerned about the lack of a long-term strategy.”

He acknowledg­es the Government has stepped up to provide billions of pounds in a “wide-ranging” series of support packages since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. But he describes the measures as “last minute, piecemeal, short term and retrospect­ive, rather than being set within the framework of a clear overall strategic plan.”

He points out the council is having to administer around 10 different grant and support schemes across its services, and having to adapt to changes in guidance.

Cllr Evans says the council is calling on the Government to produce a National Business Continuity Strategy to provide businesses with a “route map” to the end of 2021 and beyond.

He says in his letter: “The constant stop-start nature of national and local restrictio­ns, with the associated short-term financial bailouts and temporary protection­s have helped to alleviate the immediate crisis. However, the lack of certainty over the medium-long term is damaging business confidence.

“This climate is making economic recovery far more difficult, Businesses need certainty to be able to plan and invest.”

Cllr Evans says there has had to be a “very careful balance” between protecting lives and livelihood­s. He adds: “This is exactly why we are calling on government now to develop a bold, coherent, long-term plan that sets out the route map for businesses, councils and others, with a realistic timeline running at least until the end of 2021.”

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