Venue: Council Chamber - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions
Contact: Sophie Benfield
Declarations of interest
Members of the Committee are invited to declare any pecuniary or personal interests relating to specific matters on the agenda.
Please see note (a) at the end of the agenda.
No declarations of interest were received.
To consider an update on the emerging Gloucestershire Economic Strategy.
3.1 The Chair invited Ben Watts, Team Manager for Economy, and Strategic Planning, to present this item. Members noted the written report, and a short presentation was given to summarise the key information. The following points were noted:
· Gloucestershire did not currently have an agreed county-wide economic strategy in place. This role had previously been covered by the GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), which developed into a draft Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) in 2020 but was never formally signed off by Government due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
· The new Gloucestershire Economic Strategy being discussed today, would be a joint LEP and Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) strategy that built on the priorities set out in the draft LIS and the 2018 SEP.
· It was important for the county to have a strategy in place to provide a strategic overview of its economy, outline a clear narrative for its short and long-term priorities to enable growth locally, and it was also invaluable to support national funding bids.
· A three-stage engagement process had been developed:
o Stage 1 consisted of approximately 100 stakeholder interviews which asked them to identify the key themes and information they felt needed to be considered. The resulting information was then analysed and produced into a public engagement document which formed the second stage of the process.
o Stage 2 was a seven-week public engagement process; the engagement document was available on the council website and stakeholders were encouraged to advertise this via their stakeholder channels as well.
o Stage 3 was a series of five stakeholder workshop events to enable more detailed discussion on the emerging themes, outcomes, and priorities. These workshops were designed to focus on specific sectors of stakeholders.
· The Strategy had been tasked to produce a new long-term vision for the county which was summarised in Slide 3. The vision would aim to achieve ‘opportunities for all’ which was about creating conditions in which employers would flourish, enabling job creation and opportunity for individuals to achieve their goals, and all within a ‘Greener Gloucestershire’. Achieving a sustainable approach to economic growth.
· To support this long-term vision, the Strategy proposed to focus on the following four key propositions. These were detailed in the engagement document for public and stakeholder feedback:
o Sustainable Growth (summarised on slide 4)
o Inward Investment (summarised on slide 5)
o Skills and Employment (summarised on slide 6)
o Business Support (summarised on slide 7)
· Slides 8 & 9 detailed feedback from the engagement stages. More detail on this can also be found at section 4 of the report.
· Officers felt the engagement process had been successful and the feedback was currently being analysed to produce a first draft of the Strategy, with a view of a final draft being prepared by the end of December.
3.2 A member asked for more information on the reference to delivering green energy. It was advised that the Strategy would work to identify ‘quick wins’ in terms of the use ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
To consider the attached report on the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP+) funding.
Update reports on Mass Rapid Transport and Rail Services in Gloucestershire were recently considered at July’s Gloucestershire Economic Growth meeting. Please use the following links to view these:
Mass Rapid Transport: https://glostext.gloucestershire.gov.uk/documents/s93562/MRT_GEGSC_20July_v1.pdf
Minutes of the meeting: https://glostext.gloucestershire.gov.uk/documents/g11206/Printed%20minutes%20Thursday%2020-Jul-2023%2010.00%20Gloucestershire%20Economic%20Growth%20Scrutiny%20Committee.pdf?T=1
4.1 The Chair invited Tom Main, Integrated Transport Manager, to present this item. Members noted the written report, and a short verbal summary was given. The following points were noted:
· Bus services in the country were still operating around a 20-30% reduction on passenger numbers compared to pre-pandemic which represented a significant drop in revenue and in addition to increased costs to delivering bus services (fuel and employment).
· In 2023, on reviewing the long-term forecast for bus services in Gloucestershire, officers raised concern around the feasibility of continuing to support the existing network in amongst these rising cost pressures.
· In response to similar concerns across the country, Government announced the Bus Service Improvement Plan+ grant. The funding was aimed at protecting the bus network, preventing local authorities from making inevitable cuts and giving the opportunity to invest in new and improved services.
· Officers worked with the bus operators to put together a package of measures to best utilise this funding which was approved by Cabinet in September. A copy of the Cabinet report forms part of today’s report.
· The three areas of focus for the funding will be (further details are available in the report):
o Enhancement of evening and weekend services (this came out as the number one priority from the public engagement and traffic pattern research).
o Replacing services that were lost due to Stagecoach cuts earlier in the year.
o Addressing the rural transport challenges.
· Now the proposal had been approved by Cabinet, the next phase was procurement.
4.2 Members were updated that the Enhanced Partnership agreement had been agreed between GCC and the bus operators which set a strategic direction for the county’s bus services and areas to focus investment. The next step would be to establish the Enhanced Partnership Board and the stakeholder group which will be known as the Forum.
4.3 Due to the known recent issues with Stagecoach and other providers suffering from driver shortages and increased operational costs, officers were very aware that the biggest risk to mitigate was providers not coming forward to bid for these contracts. A lot of work had been done to raise awareness of the forthcoming contracts with operators, particularly with those who had been less engaged in previous years.
4.4 One of the sub-forums of the Enhanced Partnership will be a passenger experience working group which would look at ways to promote bus travel across the county, particularly on the BSIP+ supported routes which would need to prove to be commercially viable if they were to be sustained once thr grant funding came to an end.
4.5 Members noted that details around the new geographic areas for the Robin would be shared in due course as officers were still in the modelling phase. It was noted that the aim of the Robin was not to provide a commercially viable service but to deliver the most cost-effective way to deliver transport in rural areas, giving the widest geographic access as possible, rather than a structured bus ... view the full minutes text for item 4.