Q: How has the landscape in Redcar and Cleveland changed over the last 12 months due to COVID-19?
A: The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on our residents, businesses and how we as a local authority has operated over the last 12 months.
As soon as the first lockdown was announced back in March 2020, the council swung into action to put in place measures designed to help people stay safe and reduce the pressure on the NHS, while keeping statutory services operational.
A community hub was quickly set up by the council and community groups to support residents who were left isolated as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Residents in need received support with food supplies, medication deliveries and combating loneliness. The council carried out thousands of deliveries to vulnerable residents and dealt with thousands of calls at the designated call centre.
Every school in the borough remained open for the children of key workers and the most vulnerable, and the council and the community rallied around to ensure children received their free school meals.
Supporting the most vulnerable in our communities continued. With residents in our care homes going into isolation in their bedrooms and unable to receive visits, the focus remained firmly on the wellbeing of people in residential care. The council delivered essential PPE to our care homes and supported staff with the latest infection control advice.
Businesses in the area have really felt the impact of the ongoing pandemic, especially the retail and hospitality industries, which have been hardest hit.
The council has administered a variety of Government grant schemes to hundreds of local businesses to support them and help them through these very challenging times.
A number of high-profile events, including the Tour De Yorkshire and Festival of Thrift, were due to take place but had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
The area has made great efforts to develop its visitor economy in recent years and the pandemic has had a significant impact on businesses who rely on visitors coming to the area.
The council was already dealing with the aftermath of a cyber-attack when the pandemic struck, so the need to change how we worked was especially challenging.
The council maintained all of its services to the public and ensured statutory and frontline services continued to be delivered. The way of working for significant numbers of staff has changed with many now working remotely and from home.
Despite the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, however, we have some promising developments on the horizon.
Q: How are you as an authority 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: The council has recently agreed a new Corporate Plan, which sets out our key ambitions for the next three years.
The actions and projects set out in the plan will help support the local economy and our communities as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic and provide confidence that we are investing for the long-term future of the people and place of Redcar & Cleveland.
There are actions in the plan to improve education and skills, to support jobs growth, to tackle climate change, to keep people as safe and independent as possible, and to improve the appearance of the area.
It is set within the context of investing for long-term gain, maintaining the financial sustainability of the council and getting the job done, on time, keeping the costs down.
Major regeneration projects worth more than £200 million to transform Redcar and Cleveland have also recently been agreed by the council’s cabinet.
The Borough’s Area Growth Plans set out an ambitious programme of regeneration to boost the economy and create jobs and support businesses for the next four years.
Plans include the redevelopment of Eston precinct, the rollout of Redcar Town Deal’s exciting development schemes, which include a water sports hub and activity centre, and the latest purchase of a key Loftus building, as part of an aim to help transform the town’s high street.
Work is now well underway to create the Teesworks development on the former SSI UK steelworks site
The plans also include boroughwide improvement schemes to boost the visitor economy and support our town centres and high streets, housing, schools, transport, culture and local businesses.
The funding required to deliver the projects will be from external investment, including £30 million from Tees Valley Combined Authority and other private stakeholders, as well as the council’s own budget.
The council also has ambitious plans to develop our visitor economy, which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and is developing a destination marketing plan to promote the area.
The area has a great offer for visitors, including a fantastic coastline and wonderful countryside, which puts it in a great position to attract more people when the COVID-19 restrictions ease.
Q: Amid the uncertainty of COVID-19, work progressed appreciably last year on the Teesworks development, which is transforming the ex-SSI UK steelworks into a major low-carbon industrial zone. As we head into 2021, and further construction works begin, just how significant is Teesworks to the future of Redcar and Cleveland’s jobs landscape, and how important a role will it play in highlighting the area internationally as a trading hub?
A: The potential of Teesworks as an industrial site of international significance is huge and it has the potential to create tens of thousands of high-quality jobs for generations to come.
Progress has been ongoing since the closure of the SSI UK steelworks in 2015, and it’s worth remembering the steelworks were just a part of the vast 4500-acre site, the UK’s largest industrial zone.
The fact it is right by one of Britain’s busiest industrial ports adds to the site’s international importance.
Progress has gathered pace in the last 12 months, during which time the site was rebranded as Teesworks.
Work in that time has included:
Furthermore, national and international business leaders are continuing to take significant interest and firm plans currently being developed include: