A blueprint to help South Tyneside bounce back from the economic shock caused by coronavirus has been given the go-ahead.
The Council's Cabinet has approved an Economic Recovery Plan for the Borough, which will set out a series of interventions to help create future growth and prosperity, delivering 10,000 jobs over the next five years.
Cabinet heard how South Tyneside has been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic for a variety of reasons, not least because it is a coastal community, heavily reliant on highly-impacted sectors like tourism and culture.
Since March, there has been a 53 per cent increase in the unemployment claimant count, over 20,000 residents Furloughed and a fifth fewer job vacancies.
The plan sets out what is needed in the short, medium and long-term to drive a green, sustainable and digitally-focused economic recovery. It will also highlight opportunities, such as capitalising on the borough's reputation as a location for innovation and investment, particularly around the offshore and renewable energy sectors.
Cllr John Anglin, Lead Member for Regeneration and Economy, said: "The UK and a lot of the world is experiencing its biggest economic shock in decades.
"Many of the Borough's businesses effectively came to a halt during lockdown, we saw massive falls in footfall in our town centres, along with a number of redundancies and widespread furloughing.
"We know the economic impact is going to be profound and prolonged.
"The Council has played a strong leadership role and to date we have provided advice and support and distributed over £26.2m of grants to 2,314 local businesses.
"This Economic Recovery Plan for South Tyneside outlines the key actions that we will take to raise prosperity by continuing to create an economic environment that attracts, and boosts opportunities for, residents, students, businesses, investors and visitors."
The plan, which will dovetail with national and regional approaches being developed to stimulate the economy, has a major focus on skills and green growth, and calls for more devolution of powers and funding so that services and programmes can be designed and delivered locally.
It sets out 20 bold interventions, including securing local ownership of national skills and employment funds; building new fit-for-purpose business accommodation; facilitating a North East Free Trade Zone linking the Port of Tyne to IAMP, driving the rollout of full fibre broadband; making key waterfront sites offshore wind ready for investors; developing a nationally-recognised and digitally-connected Cultural Quarter around The Word and tackling the barriers to good health and wellbeing. This is supported by a detailed delivery plan and a list of shovel-ready schemes that will be put forward to government.
Cllr Anglin added: "The plan will also highlight the need to continue to play to our strengths.
"Despite COVID-19, we have forged ahead with ambitious schemes like IAMP, South Shields 365 and Holborn which are now more vital than ever for stimulating growth, prosperity and a regional recovery."
Lucy Winskell, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "We very much welcome this bold and ambitious plan for South Tyneside which has been developed with its residents front of mind, but which also recognises the Borough's important contribution to the wider North East economy.
"Working collaboratively across the region is even more vital now than ever and through the continued partnership working highlighted in its plan, the borough will play a key role in helping to deliver our aim of 100,000 more and better jobs across the North East LEP area by 2024."