Lancashire report takes stock of pandemic's effects and shows leap in number of new businesses launched
The significant impact of the pandemic on Lancashire business has been thrown into stark relief by the latest annual report for the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.
The 36-page document highlights the plunge in the number of hours worked by county staff amid the lockdowns, the rise in unemployment claims and the extent of furlough support.
But it also show a big leap in the number of people taking the opportunity to launch their own businesses.
It shows between April-June 2020, the number of hours worked in Lancashire dived from over 1,000m to 842m a week.
The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Lancashire rose from 3.7 per cent in March 2020 to 6.9 per cent in May 2020.
And there were over 100,000 workers supported by the furlough scheme at the start of the pandemic, with around 85,000 still furloughed as of March 2021.
Apprenticeship starts in Lancashire were down by 21 per cent compared to the previous financial year.
However, the report also showed that Lancashire’s volume of business creation has outperformed the North West average.
According to Companies House, 14,000 new businesses were registered in Lancashire between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, an increase of 17.1 per cent from the previous year and beating the NW’s’s 16.7 per cent.
That increase, together with the lockdowns, increased demand for business advice, with Boost, Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub, seeing a 100 per cent increase in enquiries, and a 50 per cent increase in website traffic, at the height of the pandemic.
As a result, 3,000 individual pieces of practical guidance, advice and signposting were given to businesses.
The LEP’s report also looks at the county’s roadmap to recovery, and outlines how a number of current strategies, frameworks and plans are undergoing review to address a range of post-pandemic challenges.
It further explores how a new Strategic Economic Framework is being developed for the county. This will include a Social Value Charter, an Internationalisation Strategy, industry-specific Sector Recovery Plans, and a Local Industrial Strategy.
The report also reiterates the LEP’s support of the Eden North scheme in Morecambe and its work with pan-regional initiatives such as the NP11 and Northern Powerhouse.
The LEP’s chief executive Sarah Kemp, said: “Like many other parts of the country, Lancashire has been hit hard by the pandemic and this report doesn’t shy away from its impact and the challenges we face as we look to recover.
“However, it also demonstrates that many of our businesses have been incredibly resilient and innovative during this difficult period, and that Lancashire’s entrepreneurial spirit has spurred on many individuals to start their own ventures.
“This, combined with the effective grass-roots business support provided by agencies like Boost, and the strategic interventions being driven by our new sector groups, and other LEP initiatives, means we are already stimulating new economic growth as we emerge from Covid’s grip.”
David Taylor, chairman of the LEP, said: “This report clearly shows that despite the difficulties and disruption faced by many businesses, local communities and individuals, Lancashire has both the capability and capacity to rebuild as a stronger, fairer and more prosperous region.
“It further highlights how the LEP’s collaborations with government and local partners continue to generate significant employment, housing, skills and investment opportunities. In addition, it reiterates that the LEP is committed to major projects such as Eden North which have the potential to be transformational for the whole county.”