North Ayrshire Council are known for thinking innovatively and putting their citizens at the heart of all key decisions. They have led the way in the fight to end Holiday Hunger and were the first local authority to provide free sanitary products to females across the whole region. Now they face the challenge of Covid-19 and the economic aftershock which will impact communities across the country; one they intend to face head-on. The Council recently published their Economic Recovery Plan – a local ‘New Green Deal’ which will focus on building back the local economy better, fairer and greener. As Councillor Joe Cullinane reveals in his blog, there will be no return to the old normal as he plots a bold path forward
When I became Council Leader in 2016, I vowed that I would make a difference and change the way we do things in North Ayrshire.
For too long we have suffered under an extractive economic model that has widened inequalities and left communities like ours disempowered after decades of underinvestment.
The Covid-19 pandemic threatens to make things worse – we’ve already seen the world’s billionaires increase their wealth by over £8trillion since March whilst many workers, some already working in low paid sectors such as hospitality, will bear the brunt of the economic recession, and the tsunami of job losses, that will soon sweep us.
The North Ayrshire economy – despite some strengths – was fragile even before the current crisis, with levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality above the Scottish average. Rebooting the current economic model post-Covid would ensure nothing changes. Our people and communities would continue to be left behind by an economy based on extraction not production.
It was clear that we needed a new economic model – one that works for people and planet – even before the pandemic hit. The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated that need.
When we launched our Economic Recovery and Renewal Strategy in September we didn’t sugarcoat the challenges we face. But we offered real solutions for a brighter, more prosperous future and a promise that we wouldn’t be returning to the old normal.
Our economic recovery and renewal approach sets out a comprehensive plan for an inclusive and green economic recovery for North Ayrshire.
A £8.8 million Investment Fund will be used as a key element of a Green New Deal by:
- Maximising renewable energy generation using the Council’s land and assets
- The creation of a new Green Jobs Fund to ensure a just transition for North Ayrshire;
- Investing in commercial estate including improving sustainability;
- Tackling vacant and derelict land and buildings in town centres;
- Supporting community economic development including through community regeneration and ownership; a
- A tree-planting programme to support carbon absorption
The Council will use its capital investment to accelerate reform of the economy and the wider regeneration of the area, at the same time as tackling climate change. All capital projects – including the regeneration of Ardrossan Harbour and North Shore, Lochshore, the Upper Garnock Valley Flood Protection Scheme, and the construction of new social housing as well as the redevelopment of existing stock – will use the Community Wealth Building model to provide investment in local infrastructure, land and assets and to develop local supply chains to create fair jobs and stimulate an inclusive economy.
Community Wealth Building is at the heart of everything we do and every decision we make.
Back in May this year, we became the first in Scotland to become a Community Wealth Building (CWB) Council, setting out a new economic model focused on wellbeing and inclusion. The Council will use Community Wealth Building objectives to support the recovery and renewal of North Ayrshire by creating an economy that works for people, place and planet.
We are proud of what we are doing and hope others will follow our lead. The more that follow these principles, the better. We can collectively all make a difference to our local and national economies.
Our approach will see the roll out of a new £660,000 Community Wealth Building Business Fund to provide assistance to local business and facilitating the development of co-operatives, employee ownership and social enterprises, supporting local supply chains, fair employment, digital adoption and the transition to a green economy.
Priority will be on those groups hardest hit by the economic impact of Covid-19 including a focus on ensuring the wellbeing and success of young people in the area.
The £250 million Ayrshire Growth Deal is also central to the plans to support economic recovery through a bold and ambitious investment programme to create and secure jobs at a time when investment has never been more needed.
Things might look bleak just now, but I am determined that we will come out of this with a better, fairer and greener North Ayrshire for all.