Lancashire sets up local Covid economic recovery fund

Projects designed to help kickstart a post-Covid economic recovery in Lancashire are set to receive a £12.8m boost as part of a special fund created by the county council.
County Hall has created a £12.8m Covid recovery programmeCounty Hall has created a £12.8m Covid recovery programme
County Hall has created a £12.8m Covid recovery programme

The authority's cabinet approved the plan after hearing that targeted local intervention was required in order to help Lancashire get back on its feet following the damage done by the pandemic.

The programme is in addition to an ambitious pitch to the government for £2bn of support both for specific schemes and key sectors of the county's economy.

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Last month, it was announced that Lancashire had secured £34.1m from Whitehall to fund a priority list of 10 so-called "shovel ready" schemes - including the redevelopment of a former bus depot in Chorley and the final slice of cash for the Heyhouses-M55 link road in Fylde.

However, a longer list of around 70 proposed schemes, with a total of value of £683m, has also been put to ministers and remains under consideration - and it is from this range of currently unpublished schemes that candidates for the locally-generated support will be selected.

County council leader Geoff Driver said that the £2bn bid to the government - part of a proposal entitled "Redefining Lancashire" - had been "well-received".

Meanwhile, cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, Michael Green, said that the local pot of funding that had been created would offer "the dual benefit of tackling the immediate impacts of the pandemic, together with unlocking economic recovery".

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"We're not just looking to return to where we were pre-Covid, we're actually being more ambitious for our county to secure greater prosperity for the residents of Lancashire," County Cllr Green added.

In addition to individual projects, the £12.8m could be allocated to several pilot programmes - including efforts to rejuvenate Lancashire's hard-hit tourism industry, under the banner of "Visit Soon, Safely". It is estimated that the county's visitor economy will be £3bn worse off this year as a result of the lockdown and gradual reopening.

Labour opposition group deputy leader John Fillis said that the cash should be used to help the region's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and to create apprenticeships.

Stephen Young, County Hall's executive director for growth, transport, environment and community services, said the nature of the projects under consideration would involve SMEs - "a key part of the Lancashire economy," he said.

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All funding is planned to be allocated by March 2021 and the majority of projects delivered by March 2024.

Cabinet members were told that "due diligence" will be carried out on cash issued in the form of grants and decisions on how the money is spent will be brought to cabinet for approval where time permits - or taken under emergency powers when swift action is required and reported to members at the next available opportunity.

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