Local: A new dawn for North Tyneside

Councillor Bruce Pickard, deputy mayor and cabinet member for business and economic development at North Tyneside Council, looks back on 2020 and tells North East Times why 2021 stands to be a positive year, with exciting developments underway and more in the pipeline

Q: How has the landscape in North Tyneside changed over the last 12 months due to COVID-19?

A: We’re lucky to have so many fantastic businesses in North Tyneside who have adapted brilliantly in difficult circumstances by being creative and making themselves COVID-secure to keep their staff and customers safe.

As a council we’ve worked really hard throughout the pandemic to put measures in place to support businesses through the recovery period.

We’ve paid out £34 million of Government grants to more than 3,000 businesses, set up a free helpline through our Business Factory, created a webpage via the North Tyneside Business Factory to act as a ‘one-stop shop’ for anyone needing information and advice, engaged directly with hundreds of business owners, helped promote the ‘Buy Local North Tyneside’ campaign and reintroduced free parking at weekends in town centres throughout December.

Q: How are you now planning for 2021 and laying the foundations for a successful post-pandemic future – will you be looking to work with central Government for necessary support and funding to achieve your goals?

A: We’ll continue to work with Government on behalf of local businesses to ensure they get the support they need.

Applications are still open to support businesses through the Local Restrictions Support Grants and there’s free support for businesses available via our Business Recovery Programme – details of all the support available can be found here.

In addition, we are supporting those in our community most in need suffering hardship and poverty through our Poverty Intervention Fund, providing hundreds of free school meals to children, and the Government’s Covid Winter Grant, which will provide extra financial support to some of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

Q: North Tyneside Council paid out more than £34 million in grant funding to local businesses last year and backed numerous campaigns to encourage residents to buy local. How will you look to build on this work moving forward and ensure that the thriving scene for independent businesses in areas such as Tynemouth, Cullercoats and Whitley Bay is sustained in 2021? 

A: The next 12 months and beyond promises to be a really exciting time for the whole of North Tyneside with our Ambition for North Tyneside strategy, which outlines how the council hopes to help shape each part of the borough and make sure it is fit for the future.

As part of that, we’re also continuing apace with our Ambition for North Shields and will finalise the North Shields Town Centre and Fish Quay master plan, aimed at transforming the town centre and riverside into an environment where people choose to live, work and spend their leisure time.

Our town centre support will continue through our recovery plan which includes action plans for our town centres and we will keep working closely with local chambers of trade and businesses to keep North Tyneside a great place to live, work and visit.

We will also be working with the North of Tyne Combined Authority to create a programme to help anyone who has recently lost their job get back into employment as quickly as possible and we continue to support and encourage new employment opportunities and inward investment. A fantastic example of a business we’ve recently supported to set up a new base in North Tyneside is Verisure, based at the Quorum Business Park, who are continuing to expand.