Chamber responds to Hull City Council’s Economic Strategy Consultation
THE Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce has submitted its response to Hull City Council’s Economic Strategy Consultation after what has been a very challenging period.
In its response, the Chamber highlights its continuing close working relationship as a key partner with Hull City Council on Hull’s Economic Strategy and is pleased to see a clear focus on responding to the effects on the city of the pandemic.
The Chamber says businesses of all shapes and sizes have been adversely affected by the lockdowns and in many cases will need sustained support to get themselves and city’s workers back to full productivity.
The social, health and economic impacts of the pandemic, rising unemployment and the skills challenges all complicate the local economic picture, and the Chamber is looking forward to working with all the local key stakeholders in addressing these challenges and affecting the Government’s “levelling up” agenda.
The retail sector has lost several big names in recent months bringing new challenges to our high streets, while the hospitality, visitor and cultural sectors have also been hit hard by the pandemic and will take some time to recover. There is still a palpable reluctance in many quarters for the public to resume their pre-pandemic shopping and socialising habits which support the city centre’s smaller retailers in particular.
The Chamber feels that Hull as a city is well placed to strengthen its economy, while the increasing focus on carbon neutrality and green energy continues to take centre stage in the region’s thinking. The continued investment of Siemens in its blade factory is very welcome as it provides well-paid jobs which in turn boosts the city’s economic spending power and supports the retail and leisure industry. We need to encourage more of this type of inward investment as well as organic expansion of local home-grown initiatives like the Chamber’s Acorn Fund supported in its early development by Hull City Council. This initiative has now created or sustained over 4,750 jobs over the last 15 years, adding over £180m GVA to the area’s economy.
Hull is a port city and must embrace the opportunities Brexit and Freeport status for the Humber are providing to attract new businesses from Europe, thereby providing more quality jobs for our city.
With work on the Castle Street transport project now underway, traffic flow in Hull is increasingly challenging, but if we are to retain businesses and attract shoppers into the city centre, we would urge all local partners to work with the Highways Agency and others to ensure the traffic is kept moving in the most efficient way possible with minimum disruption, to avoid visitors and shoppers looking elsewhere.
The Chamber particularly welcomes the Council’s focus on training and up-skilling the population to combat the skills shortages which are reported back to us in our Quarterly Economic Surveys.
The pandemic has changed the world, and the requirements for city centre office and retail space have also changed. We would encourage the Council to review its estate along with local property developers to reconsider how best to meet these new challenges and repurpose the city centre’s assets for the “new norm” of fewer shops and fewer workers supporting or utilising city centre businesses. Many of the traditional city centre workers are now working, at least some of the time, from their own suburban or East Riding homes which does offer new green space opportunities to improve Hull’s air quality and pollution concerns in the city centre especially.
Chamber Chief Executive, Dr Ian Kelly, said: “There are many exciting new inward investment opportunities for Hull and the Humber coming down the line to translate into jobs and growth. But Hull’s economic development strategy also has to dig deep to impact on the longstanding deprivation and local jobs challenges it faces.
“Home grown successes like the Chamber’s Acorn Fund, which has helped SME’s create or sustain over 4750 jobs and added £180m GVA to the Hull and East Riding economy over the last 15 years, must not be underestimated or forgotten.”