Council agrees £9.6m strategy to support Hertfordshire businesses and residents 'recover' from Covid pandemic

The ‘Covid-19 Recovery Strategy’ brings together a series of projects designed to support health and well-being and economic recovery

Hertfordshire County Council has agreed a £9.6m strategy to support residents and businesses ‘to recover and prosper’ in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ‘Covid-19 Recovery Strategy’ brings together a series of projects designed to support health and well-being and economic recovery over the next two years.

And on Tuesday, July 20, it was given the go-ahead by a meeting of the full county council.

Hertfordshire County Council

At the meeting, leader of the county council Cllr Richard Roberts highlighted the ‘immense response’ of the county council, volunteers and partner organisations to support residents since the start of the pandemic.

And he acknowledged the impact of these ‘extraordinary times’ on health, work and ‘the way we live our lives’.

But proposing the £9.6m two-year strategy, he also signalled it was time for the county council to think about recovery.

“We are going to be living with this illness for so many years to come, but today I want to formally move us into a phase of recovery,” he said.

“Of course it will continue to respond to local outbreaks and variants and a level of restriction on our daily life.

“But it is time to move forward – none of us want to be stuck in a long pandemic forever.”

And he said it was now ‘critical’ to have a plan in place to ensure services are restored and we help our residents and communities to recover.

“The Covid 19 pandemic continues to be the biggest challenge facing our society since the war,” he said.

“This council will now play its part in helping this county recover and prosper in the wake of these unprecedented times.”

At the meeting, the Liberal Democrat Clly Sally Symington proposed that ‘sufficient emphasis’ be put on the strategy’s ‘Rethink’ strand and its potential role in meeting the objectives of the Sustainable Herts strategy.

“The current situation is one that has lasted much longer and has the potential to be far more transformational to the way we live than initially envisaged,” she said.

“To this end, we need to embrace the opportunity to change the way we deliver services, how we tackle rising inequality and how we build a sustainable future.”

Putting forward the amendment she referenced increased flooding, the use of Zoom and levels of car use, but it was not agreed by the council.

Supporting the strategy, Labour’s Cllr Sharon Taylor pointed to the need to focus on recovery for communities.

But she also emphasised the importance of the ‘rethink’ strand of the strategy.

And she said: “I think it’s really vital that as we recover from Covid that we recover in a way that’s better than we were before – not go back to our old ways that were not improving our environment.”

In light of the pandemic’s impact, she said the county was ‘lucky’ to have creative sector and cell and gene research sectors within the county.

And she highlighted investment of more than £400m by GSK in Stevenage, where she is leader of the borough council.

But she stressed the need for economic recovery in the wake of Covid to be sustainable.

She said: “We are lucky here in Hertfordshire that we have two of the very key sectors that will take this country forward for the future – that’s the creative industries and the STEM industries.

“We had the fantastic news in Stevenage this week that GSK will be investing a further £400m in cell and gene therapy in this borough.

“And a United States cell and gene company is moving their headquarters from the United States not to London, or Cambridge or Oxford but to here to Hertfordshire and to Stevenage.

“This is amazing news.

“And what we need to do is make sure we are stressing the importance of that economic recovery – but it must be an economic recovery focussed on making sure that we are doing that with the full knowledge of what it may be doing to the environment as we do that.

“And if we don’t do both together we will be failing in our duty so that it is sustainable economic recovery – but addressing all the people issues as well.”

Responding in the debate executive member for resources and performance Cllr Bob Deering stressed that the strategy was designed to support people who had ‘suffered’ as a result of the pandemic now.

And he said the council was committed to sustainability – which, he said, was a central part of the council’s approach.

A breakdown of the £9.6m strategy, suggests that over the two-year period £3.263m will be allocated to adult care services projects and £3m to children’s services.

A further £2.2m will be allocated to ‘Building Life Chances’, which is designed to tackle the impact on families – including family incomes.

There is an additional £680,000 allocated to ‘environment and infrastucture’ projects and £60,000 to community protection.

Councillors will also be allocated additional funds – totalling £390,000 – to directly support projects that promote social, economic or environmental well-being in their local divisions.

Cllr Deering suggested to the council that the £9.6m package was possible because of the ‘continuing sound management of the council’s finances’.