Agenda item

Economic Development Update


CT reviewed the work of the Economic Development team over the last 18-24 months and reported that COVID has put a strain on the local economy. The first year of the pandemic saw the team in ‘grant payment mode’ following a telephone survey of 700-800 of the borough’s local businesses. During the first 12 months of the pandemic the team also looked at supporting specifically the retail sector. Resultant grant schemes were Welcome Back funding and Return to the High Street funding.

DBC’s 2 business centres remained open throughout the pandemic and apart from the first 2 months they were fully staffed. The Council continued to charge rent for the centres, so we felt it was important that we were staffing on site and supporting the businesses and having that focal point for the business community. 2 retail projects took place (1) to support people returning to high streets in as safe a way as possible and (2) around promotion and events.

Throughout the pandemic communication was key, around what funding and grants were available. The recovery board opened in March 2021 to identify the priorities for the economy in the area and to formulate a recovery plan for the economy which will be delivered over the short, medium and long term. The Council is in the process of finalising action plans to support that plan and this will move into the delivery phase from 1st January. This involves such partners as the college, the university, the LEP and the chambers of commerce.

The filming sector has mushroomed over the last 6 months. The Council now has a dedicated officer as a single point of contact for the filming locations. DBC is also working with the college and the Elstree Screen Academy to make sure young people can access relevant training and be able to cross over into work experience and access to the filming that is going on. This is part of a wider Hertfordshire piece of work and will hopefully successfully promote Hertfordshire as the Hollywood of the UK.

CT explained that the Council was piloting a project to get social value from Section 106 Agreements which will be a formulaic approach where a certain number of houses or square footage of space equals a number of hours of social value, or social value training. It will oblige the developers to come forward with a skills strategy.

The Council has continued to attract investments from other areas into Dacorum in the last 18 months and the data attached to the report demonstrates that the Council is holding its own financially mainly because the diversity of our economy is one of our strengths.

Cllr Birnie welcomed the report and asked whether a film stategy had been developed.

CT confirmed that filming protocols were already available.

Cllr Taylor queried what support there was for people who wanted to become self-employed following the pandemic. CT explained the partnership with the Herts Growth Hub had been increased with many referrals to them. There is an action plan around skills too as a theme of the recovery. A part-time officer has been appointed as a skills officer as well to help with this. The Council are working with the college and other skills partners preparing the action plan which focuses on self-employment and upskilling.

Cllr NT asked if ‘Dacorum look no further’ is still in place.

CT confirmed it was but it had lost focus with the Garden Communities taking prominence in branding at the moment. CT added there needs to be alignment across all the areas to focus on the One Dacorum brand.

Cllr GS explained, looking specifically about filming, that a farm had diversified to provide storage for film makers’ equipment and props. Cllr GS also added that an issue affecting the economy and housing is raising the level of wages in Dacorum to compete with the salaries of London commuters.

Cllr Birnie asked where the flexi desks referred to in the report were located.

CT confirmed that the flexi desks were the in the Maylands Business Centre.

Cllr Birnie suggested that these should be established in other areas of the Borough.

CT explained that a bid will hopefully be made to the Transforming Towns funding, which is a pot of money that Hertfordshire LEP hold. This would be focussed on the town centre enhance employment opportunities and would include flexible desks for freelancers and entrepreneurs to have virtual business premises and a business starting place, in a co-working environment.

Cllr SW noted that 780 businesses were questioned about how they survived the pandemic and asked whether these businesses would be revisited to ask this again.

CT explained this was taken from the KPMG report which was done after the pandemic but the Council would like to revisit this data. Some projects are being funded by the ARG fund and will go to the recovery board on 8th December.

Cllr Birnie reminded Members that CT was retiring and paid tribute to all of her excellent hard work over many years. The committee applauded this encomium.


·                CT will resend the filming protocols to all Members.

·                The report will be amended to say ‘West Herts College campus, in Dacorum’.

·                On page 18 a figure needs to be added in the discussion about the increase of office space.

·                CT to review the amount of square km of AONB that there is in the borough and update the report if the figure already in there is incorrect.

·                The reference to the M10 in the report is to be deleted.

The report was noted.


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