Tourism and technology among drivers of post-COVID economic recovery for Calderdale
Tourism and technology are among the main drivers likely to steer Calderdale’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Calderdale Council’s Place Scrutiny Board was debating the council’s recovery plan which said tourism and culture, worth £400 million to Calderdale, using technology to develop the economy and capital investment already committed for schemes, and voluntary sector help would all have important recovery roles.
These also raised challenges, such as currently patchy digital infrastructure and people cautious about venturing out in the post-COVID environment.
Towns investment was also of high importance, with Calderdale’s Town Boards in the process of drawing down up to £75 million from the Government for towns across Calderdale.
Rethinking Calderdale’s towns for the future will be another foundation stone, says the report.
Gateway, highway and green schemes, with the council’s capital investment, would also play their part, delivering opportunities for new businesses to develop and grow, creating new jobs, and the skills which would be needed, it said.
Cabinet member for Regeneration and Strategy, Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said she was absolutely convinced tourism in Calderdale would bounce back, boosted by promotion and TV links ranging from Gentleman Jack to Ackley Bridge.
Coun Josh Fenton-Glunn (Lab, Calder) said one challenge was how to balance boosting this coming out of COVID, while still ensuring people felt secure when they went out into towns.
“Some people are devil-may-care and others are more cautious,” he said.
The council’s regeneration lead Shelagh O’Neill said there was a pent-up demand, people wanted to do things.
“We have started to identify how we can open up the local economy safely,” she said.
How this could be done in each place was being looked at, for example in Hebden Bridge.
Board Chair Coun George Robinson (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) asked how long it would be before economic recovery success could be measured.
Sian Rogers, the council’s Policy and Projects Manager, and lead for the voluntary and community sector, said performance indicators would be refreshed and adapted, with some improvements likely to show sooner rather than later.
Coun Roisin Cavanagh (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said she assumed the council had actions that were immediate to help young people who had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Ms Rogers said some big things were already set in motion at regional level including the Kickstarter programme which aimed to get people into employment and skills as soon as possible whether coming out of furlough or leaving a job.
The council and regional partners were trying to identify where there will be gaps, for example across retail and hospitality, with support packages for those sectors likely to be needed.
More funding should come through devolution following the recent agreement, said Ms Rogers.