Local economic recovery planning in Somerset County Council

The Somerset Growth and Recovery Plan was developed and agreed by all five local authorities in January 2021. It is based on detailed economic analysis of the regional and local authority area impacts of the pandemic on jobs and growth under different scenarios.


A 'real-life' graphic mock up of the Gravity hub in Somerset

The Somerset Growth and Recovery Plan was developed and agreed by all five local authorities in January 2021. It is based on detailed economic analysis of the regional and local authority area impacts of the pandemic on jobs and growth under different scenarios. The plan replaces the Somerset Growth Plan which was being developed prior to the pandemic.

The plan differentiates activities and interventions across the different phases of recovery (Lockdown, Restart, Revitalise, Grow), which has been adopted widely by partners across the Hearth of the South West LEP.  Initial analysis by Oxford Economics commissioned by South West Councils was supplemented with local analysis led by a Business Intelligence cell established though the Local Resilience Forum, as well as engagement with the local Federation of Small Businesses, Chambers of Commerce and local business. The authorities repurposed revenue from a Business Rates retention pilot to support the restart phase of the plan.

Co-ordinating the economic response across a two-tier area can be more challenging. Somerset established governance arrangements at regional, and County-District level, and via their LRF. The Somerset Growth Board has also been used as forum to co-ordinate planning, collaboration and communication across the LEP, Local Government and businesses.

While infection rates in 2020 were generally lower that the national average there has been a relatively significant economic impact due to the economic structure of the county. This is due to the prevalence of sectors that have been hardest hit: tourism, hospitality and light manufacturing. Somerset local authorities acted quickly to mitigate the impact of major employer failure by establishing a Redundancy Task Force, undertaking an economic impact assessment, and working closely with Oscar Meyer Ltd. The loss of around 860 jobs and knock-on implications on local supply chains could significantly reduce the economic activity in the Chard area.

The Somerset Growth and Recovery Plan has established a platform to develop new projects and promote ambition for the area. It has an emphasis on:

  • Employment, Skills and Economic Inclusion: including a comprehensive one stop shop providing advice and support to employers and jobseekers
  • Helping Businesses and Sectors to Grow: safeguarding and creating jobs in bedrock sectors and supporting growth sectors via enterprise and innovation zones and encouraging high growth sectors such as aerospace, advanced manufacturing and nuclear
  • Providing the Infrastructure to Enable Growth: reducing carbon emissions through travel and energy efficiency, improving digital and physical connectivity, reducing flood risk to enable growth and delivering strategic employment sites
  • Creating Attractive Places and Homes: improving the environment in Somerset’s towns and enabling the private sector to deliver housing and development