SWANSEA Council is set to join forces with businesses and communities to shape our city’s economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
Over the last six months, the council has handed over £100m of support to help businesses weather the storm of the pandemic.
Now it aims to join forces with them to ensure the recovery is strong and effective in the months and years ahead.
Businesses rates for 2,000 of the most-affected city businesses have been scrapped for the current financial year, benefiting them to the tune of £35m in total.
More than £50m in grants has been shared among 4,000 businesses to help keep them going and retail shops, hairdressers, gyms, restaurants, cafes and more received cash pay-outs of up to £25,000.
Almost 170 hospitality businesses have snapped-up grants of up to £8,000 are helping restaurants, bars and cafés re-open safely and serve food outside and more than 170 applications have been or are being processed.
And in the early days of lockdown, the council moved quickly to strike a deal with Debenhams to defer its business rates and help secure its long-term future in Swansea.
Now, as new data suggests Swansea retailers are starting to see an increase in the number of people returning to shopping in the city centre, the council is seeking a united approach to economic recovery in the city.
Robert Francis-Davies, the Cabinet member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said:
“Covid-19 is still with us and will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future.
“Our city’s prosperity depends on the success of our business communities and that’s why we’ve pulled out all the stops to support them through the storm of the initial lockdown and through the current local restrictions.
“We’ve worked with Welsh and UK Governments to provide thousands of businesses in Swansea with support amounting to about £100m.
“This has helped to make sure many businesses have remained viable and were able to survive the coronavirus crisis and this, in turn, will have protected the livelihoods of many thousands of people by keeping them in jobs.”
“Now we need to stand together to secure our communities’ economic recovery.”
A report to Cabinet next week looking at the role of the council in supporting economic recovery in Swansea highlights the work done so far to support businesses and the continuing measures the council is putting in place to embed the recovery.
This has included the Kingsway improvements, support and advice for businesses which are re-opening safely for their staff and their customers as well as the continuation of the arena construction which remains on schedule to open next year.
Cllr Francis-Davies commented further:
“We’ll be looking to work with businesses through the Regeneration Swansea partnership to create an economic recovery plan that supports businesses, jobs and communities.
“The need to improve digital and ICT skills has been identified by a large proportion of businesses which reflects the move to more digital ways of working across almost all business sectors as a result of the pandemic.
“The pandemic has changed our way of life and will continue to do so. Through the Swansea Bay City Deal we were already working to transform our communities through a major upgrade of digital infrastructure backed up by training and skills development.
“We can’t go back to the way things were before the pandemic. But we can seize the opportunity to develop new ways of doing things, creating more jobs and more wealth in the years ahead.”
According to the report going to Cabinet, Shop Local initiatives designed to capitalise on new shopping habits developed during the pandemic to shop with local stores and food and retail businesses are already being put into action.
Grant funding through the Rural Development Programme and Swansea Bay Fisheries Local Action Group is being made available to small businesses to support their recovery.
Around 300 people have been given support during the pandemic to support their employability as part of the response to the crisis, including some made redundant due to the impact of the pandemic on sectors like tourism and hospitality.
Cllr Francis-Davies added:
“There are good reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for recovery in Swansea following what many have described as the greatest shock to the economy outside of wartime for at least a century.
“Even though the virus is still with us, now is the time to look forward, build on what has been achieved so far and create opportunities to strengthen our economic base in the months and years ahead.”