The following Notices of Motion submitted to the County have been referred to the Cabinet in accordance with Standing Order 8(2) for consideration, to refer it to another Committee or make a recommendation back to the Council:
(a) Food Justice (Councillor Aves)
(Councillor Aves attended in accordance with Standing Order 8 and Councillors Ackland, Biederman and Dewhirst attended in accordance with 25(2) and spoke to this item).
This Council notes:
That Trussell Trust research shows three million children in the UK are at risk of hunger during the school holidays.
The Trussell Trust anticipates that ending furlough in October would trigger a rise in foodbank use of at least 61%.
Foodbank use has already dramatically increased. The Independent Food Aid Network recorded a 59% increase in demand for emergency food support between February and March 2020.
The Covid-19 emergency has exposed major health inequalities across the country with children and families suffering disproportionately.
Between March and August 2020 there has already been a 115% increase in Universal Credit claimants nationally and in Devon even greater, 165% for all claimants and 173% for 16-24 year olds.
That Government has committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which have an international and domestic commitment to ending hunger by 2030.
That Government has asked Henry Dimbleby to lead on producing a National Food Strategy.
This Council believes:
No one in the UK should go hungry, not least children.
Food justice is about taking action on the causes of hunger such as affordability and availability of good nutritious food. That the stopping of furlough payments will lead to further unemployment and more food poverty as a result.
Local councils, schools and communities play a key role in supporting those that are experiencing food poverty during the Covid-19 pandemic and that should be recognised.
The Council resolves to:
1. Nominate an existing cabinet member to take on responsibility for Food Justice.
2. Commit to setting up a food partnership to work with district councils and other partners to develop a Food Action Plan.
3. Re-double its efforts to increase Free School Meal sign ups to ensure that all those who are entitled to them or need them, receive them.
4. Encourage Scrutiny to look at the extent of food poverty – map it and understand what is going on across the County.
5. Write in association with Devon MPs, to encourage Government to:
a) commit to legislate the existing commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger by 2030;
b) commit funding in the next spending review for the five Sustain policies to protect children's health and increase access to nutritious food that is culturally appropriate, because the National Food Strategy will take a year to be adopted;
c) support our local food production and suppliers, our farming and fishing industries in Devon, to protect workers jobs so that our food supplies are sustained throughout the pandemic and any shortages or delays experienced during the EU Brexit;
d) increase Universal Credit so people can buy enough food;
e) immediately act to help those most affected.
Members considered the Officer’s factual briefing note on the matter (CSO/20/16) which referred to food insecurity being a wide-ranging issue, covering affordability, accessibility and quality of food, and the related impacts on diet, health and the environment. It also outlined the current activity and listed several initiatives to improve food security, the learning from the COVID experiences and mitigation measures, the current risks in Devon around resilience and insecurity and plans for a Strategy to adopt a leadership role in ensuring food security and fostering local food resilience to scale up work to address immediate demand for food aid and improve the food system in the longer term.
The Cabinet considered the recommendation now before them and the actions now proposed and already undertaken and it then was MOVED by Councillor Hart, SECONDED by Councillor McInnes, and
RESOLVED that Council:
(a) ask the Leader to nominate an existing Cabinet Member to take on responsibility for Food Insecurity.
(b) support the creation of a working group within Devon County Council (DCC) to develop further understanding of the Council’s role around food supply, resilience and insecurity. This will include, but is not limited to:
(i) Consider the development of a Devon Food Partnership using the Sustainable Food Places approach to strengthen food resilience in the county;
(ii) The development of a food resilience strategy for Devon County Council
(c) encourage Scrutiny to look at the extent of food insecurity in Devon.
(d) continue to work with Devon MPs to encourage Government to:
(i) Support our local economy, including agriculture.
(ii) Ensure resilience of our food supply chains.
(iii) Support food-based initiatives that reduce health inequalities and food insecurity.
(b) Devon Economy and Recovery (Councillor Atkinson)
(Councillor Atkinson attended in accordance with Standing Order 8 and Councillors Dewhirst and Hannaford attended in accordance with 25(2) and spoke to this item).
The strength of the UK and Devon economy and GDP depends in the major part on the recovery of the service sectors as we are principally a service led economy. Though we also have manufacturing and production industries nationally and in Devon. It is acknowledged that our economy has contracted as a result of the pandemic and the impending Exit from the EU.
The EU has set up a £750bn Euro coronavirus pandemic recovery fund and long-term spending plans to provide grants to kick start Europe’s recovery from the pandemic particularly investing in green industry and infrastructure and to target resources to recovery, resilience and transformation.
To date only £20 million of new funding to help small and medium sized businesses across England to get back on track after the pandemic has been announced by the government and this means access only to grants of between £1,000 - £5,000 for new equipment and technology and specialist advice. No funding has been allocated to the Shared Prosperity Fund to replace the loss of EU Structural Funds after Brexit.
This Council will write to the government and request it:
to ensure that there are no new austerity measures like those introduced in 2010 after the banking crisis;
to set up a similar well-funded fund proportionate to the size of this country to provide grants to support Britain and Devon’s economic recovery resilience and transformation;
to make grants available out of the fund to invest in and support:
- Devon’s local food and drink production and suppliers, our farming and fishing industries in Devon, so as to protect jobs so that our food supplies are sustained throughout the pandemic and any shortages or delays experienced during the exit from the EU;
- Devon’s service sectors such as retail hospitality tourism education health human services information technology finance arts and culture;
- Devon’s shipbuilding and engineering and environmental science sectors
- Devon’s Green economy and sustainable energy production and transport systems and to support local industry to achieve net zero carbon climate change targets set by the Paris Agreement
- Devon’s blue economy - its marine environment which is aiming to become more sustainable;
- New infrastructure to support sustainable green and blue growth.
Members considered the Officer’s factual briefing note on the matter (CSO/20/16) which referred to the recent Cabinet Report on 14th October 2020 which set out the key impacts facing the Devon economy including forecasted impacts and the Team Devon Economic Recovery Prospectus and the approval of an economic recovery programme of £6m over the next 2-3 years, the case being made to Government (backed by all Devon MPs) for additional funding to deliver the key priorities in the Team Devon Economic Recovery Prospectus, the work with the LEP and funding secured, the work of the Heart of the SW Economic Resilience and Opportunities Group and the commissioned economic forecasting research from Oxford Economics for all upper tier areas which had provided helpful scenarios and modelling of economic impacts from COVID.
The Cabinet considered the recommendation now before them and the actions already undertaken.
It was MOVED by Councillor Hart, SECONDED by Councillor McInnes, and
(a) that Council be recommended to take no further action at this time, given that the concerns and issues have already been raised with Government by the Council working with Team Devon including a request for funding; and
(b) to note that the Council has also approved a £6m package of investment, for consideration as part of the 2021/22 budget setting process which would support the actions as set out in the notice of motion.
(c) Great South West Initiative (Councillor Atkinson)
(Councillor Atkinson attended in accordance with Standing Order 8 and Councillors Biederman, Dewhirst and Hannaford attended in accordance with 25(2) and spoke to this item).
Since the abolition of the Regional Development Agency and the establishment of local LEPS economic development in the region has become fragmented. Control of public funds for economic development rest with central government on a piecemeal basis.
At the recent AGM of the Heart of the South West LEP the chair lamented that there has been no rural productivity deal for the South West and that the South West does not garner the level of support we need from the Government. He cited that attempts to deal with this by establishing the Great South West with its prospectus had failed to get the support of government.
The Council agrees to write to the government to ask it to support the Great South West Initiative and in particular:
Give formal recognition and
Provide an identified Minister to link into Government.
Provide at the very least £2million requested over three years to move forward at pace and enable it to develop full business cases across the range of topics covered in its prospectus though arguably now more is required sooner to support the recovery of the economy after the impact of the pandemic
Support an enhanced export and investment hub.
Recognition to a Great South West Tourism Zone; and an
Agreement to create a rural productivity deal.
Members considered the Officer’s factual briefing note on the matter (CSO/20/16) which referenced the Council as the leading local authority supporter and promoter of the Great South West initiative, the Council providing political leadership and professional advice to the regional partnership, the role of the Council as the co-ordinator for the Steering Group and the liaison office with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Great South West, the professional advice provided from the Economy, Enterprise and Skills service and the Policy team for the Great South West prospectus, the meetings held at Ministerial level and the personal backing of the Prime Minister to the Great South West and the region’s prospectus for growth, Securing Our Future, that would support the Government’s “Build Back Better” policy.
The regional partnership had not been able to convince Ministers of the importance of recognising and agreeing funding for the Great South West as the clean energy powerhouse for the region and the UK, therefore the Leader had written to the Prime Minister seeking the earliest opportunity to discuss how the priorities within the prospectus could be turned into a solid reality with Government support. Efforts were also being made to secure a meeting with the new Local Government Minister Luke Hall.
The Cabinet considered the recommendation now before them and the actions already undertaken.
It was then MOVED by Councillor Hart, SECONDED by Councillor McInnes, and
RESOLVED that Council be recommended to make no further representation at this time, whilst we await a response and outcome to the recent letter sent on this matter and a meeting with the Minister for Local Government has taken place.
(d) The Protection of UK Jobs and Businesses (Councillor Hannaford)
(Councillor Hannaford attended in accordance with Standing Order 8 and Councillors Atkinson, Biederman and Dewhirst attended in accordance with 25(2) and spoke to this item).
Council Notes With Concern
The South West region has seen some of the highest employee furlough rates in the country during the first part of the Covid-19 pandemic. Figures show that under the Government's Job Retention Scheme, 808,900 people in the region were furloughed, with take-up in the South-West of 32.1%, being the second highest for any region in England after the West Midlands.
Retail has been the sector hardest hit by mass redundancies since the pandemic began, with manufacturing, tourism, hospitality and aviation also being badly affected.
Tens of thousands of job losses have been announced, and more mass redundancies are expected in these sectors, yet they will not receive any tailored support when the Government’s jobs-retention scheme is scheduled to finish at the end of October. Our country is facing an unprecedented jobs crisis. The Office for Budget Responsibility predicts that, by the end of this year, nearly one in eight of the UK’s workforce will be unemployed.
The Government’s current plan to end furlough outright is over-simplistic and will only exacerbate the problem - it puts millions of jobs at risk. Regions such as the South West, are as a direct result at risk of suffering from deepening inequality. Britain already has the worst regional inequalities in Europe, and without targeted action now, these are likely to get even worse.
The work of the Treasury select committee, that has called on the Government to “carefully consider” targeted extensions to its coronavirus job retention scheme, that is due to end for all sectors. The new ‘Challenges of Recovery’ report from the cross-party group of MPs, concludes that although the retention scheme “cannot persist indefinitely” the Chancellor should consider further support measures.
Commenting on the new publication, Treasury select committee chair Mel Stride MP said: “Our second report of the inquiry focuses on emerging challenges as lockdown measures are lifted. One such challenge is to target assistance effectively at those businesses and individuals who need it. The Chancellor should carefully consider targeted extensions to the coronavirus job retention scheme and explain his conclusions.”
The new report is the second by the committee on the economic impacts of Covid-19. The first identified gaps in the Government’s financial schemes that left at least one million people unsupported.
The proposals set out in the earlier June report were ignored, which led the Treasury select committee to accuse the Government of “turning its back on those who are suffering”.
The newly released report also says the Government should extend reforms to Universal Credit past their one-year cut-off, support small businesses struggling with debt and define “levelling up”.
Although the Prime Minister claims to have made reducing regional inequalities a central aim of his administration, the committee accuses his ‘levelling up‘ promise of being merely an “empty slogan”.
The Chair Mel Stride MP added: “The key will be assisting those businesses who, with additional support, can come through the crisis as sustainable enterprises, rather than focusing on those that will unfortunately just not be viable in the changed post-crisis economy. As the committee has said throughout the crisis, the Chancellor must continue to show flexibility in his approach. We hope that the Treasury’s unwillingness to implement the recommendations from our first report is not a sign of how it will respond to this one.”
Council Believes That
We need a financial support system that specifically targets industries worst hit by the pandemic, seeks greater economic protections for any areas under local lockdown restrictions, and ensures incomes for people who are forced to self-isolate. Without targeted support viable businesses will fail and employment will be lost. This will extinguish any hopes of a quick economic recovery from the deep economic recession that we are facing.
Our region and the whole country is now facing a social and economic toxic shock through the threat of mass unemployment in tandem with an international health crisis from a second wave of the pandemic.
To formally write to the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and all our local Members of Parliament as a matter of urgency to call again on the Government, in the strongest possible terms, to not implement its damaging blanket approach to indiscriminately sever and totally withdraw the current furlough scheme. Which fails to consider the circumstances of different regions, such as the South West, and the most effected sectors, with the deep impact on the communities that have a proud history in these industries. Therefore to urge the Government to do right by our local communities and businesses and see them through the crisis by targeting support, extra relief for lockdown areas, extend the eviction ban, adequate support for self-isolators, and not pull the life raft away while the storm is still raging, to save jobs, and to potentially save lives.
Members considered the Officer’s factual briefing note on the matter (CSO/20/16) which referred to the national support measures focused on retaining viable jobs and supporting business cash flow and the work with the Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Hub to communicate this to the Devon business community, the support to incentivise compliance with self isolation and local restrictions, Test and Trace Isolation Payments and the Local Restrictions Support Grant.
The Council, working with Team Devon and the LEP, continued to state and make the case for the economy and the interventions and had made the case to Government to retain unspent business support grants to support shared priorities. Work also continued with local and regional partners around Government’s wider suite of employment support measures, engagement with our MPs and Team Devon partners to push for additional investment to level up Devon’s economy.
The Cabinet considered the recommendation now before them, the actions now proposed and those already undertaken.
It was MOVED by Councillor Hart, SECONDED by Councillor McInnes, and
(a) that Council be recommended, in light of recent announcements and amendments to the package of support offered to areas facing restrictions, that no letter be sent at this time; and
(b) that Council continue to monitor the economic impacts facing the Devon economy and consider the ongoing economic consequences from additional restrictions and measures that could potentially be applied to Devon and its neighbours.