Agenda item

Covid 19 Update - Andrew Tate/Ian Stevenson

Report of the Strategic Director of Housing, Environment and Healthy Communities


The Committee received a report and presentation to update on the position with regards to Covid 19. 


The Committee were advised that quite quickly at the early stages of the Pandemic the Economic Development working with Regulatory Services and Environmental Health established a business support hub to help and allow businesses to stay open. 


Demand has fallen away recently as businesses have opened.  We have administered £77m of support to 1200 businesses.  During the summer of 2020 £40m of direct grants to business and since Summer 2020 a further £36m has been further delivered to business particularly those that have been forced to close or those operating at reduced capacity.


An additional restrictions grant was also administered and the first allocation totalled £5.835m.  The grant was issued to:


·         Businesses forced to close but outside the rates list

·         Suppliers to hospitality, accommodation, leisure and events

·         Taxi drivers and Driving Instructors

·         Registered childcare providers

·         Other impacted businesses with fixed property costs

·         Home based and mobile hospitality businesses and in person services


There was a second top of of this grant of £1.081m with top up payments to:


·         Pubs, cafes, clubs, restaurants and hotels

·         Indoor leisure venues

·         Taxi drivers


The remaining additional restrictions grant is being used to support business recovery. 


In terms of recent impact there was some concern with regards to the withdrawal of government support along with the Furlough scheme coming to an end in September and the 5th and final round of Income support for Self Employed ended in September and the repayment holiday for Government loans ending for many businesses.


There is uncertainty about new strains of the virus, fears of peak infection rates over the winter and further business restrictions continue to impede the recovery.  The ability of businesses to survive or thrive during the pandemic has been heavily influenced by the sector in which they operate.  Businesses providing in-person services such as retail, hospitality, leisure and event businesses have been particularly impacted.  Existing sectoral challenges have been exacerbated and supply chains have been severely impacted.  Generally larger businesses have been more resilient due to greater resources and capacity.


Digital business and those providing business services have found it easier to adapt and introduce new ways of working to mitigate impact.  Manufacturing and health sector operators have continued to operate during the pandemic.  There continues to be demand for commercial property to support growth, both small units and larger foot print office and industrial premises.  Recorded business investment and job creation levels for 2020/21 are comparable to pre-Covid reporting periods. 



Working Gateshead, our person centred, place based universal employment support approach which is open to any Gateshead resident regardless of employment status continues to deliver both remotely and face to face.  It has strong links with the Area Co-ordinator in the community hubs and robust referral mechanisms.  In partnership with Gateshead Older People’s Assembly, Gateshead Council has worked to establish a Gateshead 50+ employability hub to help people over 50 access employment, training and health and wellbeing opportunities.  This age cohort has been proportionately more adversely affected during the pandemic.  Working Gateshead has received 1212 contacts from residents for help preparing for work, returning to work, dealing with redundancy or to progress in work.  Intensive one to one Working Gateshead employment support was provided for 550 unemployed and economically inactive residents.  290 residents have been helped into employment by Working Gateshead since July 2020.


Between August and October 2021, 95 resident have been supported into Apprenticeships, 18 placements have been sourced for Traineeships, 2056 learners have been supported to stay on programme, Gateshead Council have been awarded over 15 apprenticeship contracts with other local authorities. 


The Council is acting as DWP Kickstart ‘Gateway’ to help businesses access funding to create job placements for 16-24 year olds receiving Universal Credit, which has resulted in:


·         25 business support to access the Kickstart Scheme

·         96 job placements created

·         Assisted 33 young people to commence work so far


Kickstart vacancies have been created from a variety of businesses across a range of sectors, for example:


·         Cintel Global, a multi-disciplinary creative production studio located at PROTO, has filled all five of their vacancies including positions such as Junior 3D/Technical Artist, Junior Social Media Marketer, Junior Web Developer

·         Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art has filled three of their five vacancies including Facilities Admin Support Assistant, Facilities Maintenance Technician and Trainee Programme Technician

·         Arcus Studios, an animation studio based in the Northern Design Centre, has filled all three of their vacancies including Junior/Ass Project Manager, Junior Technical Animator/Rigger and Junior 2D Animator and due to the calibre of candidate coming forward to their roles they have created a further two roles.


With regards to community support 6 community hubs are operating with an emergency food distribution system in place, welfare calls were made in writing to over 36000 residents and telephone call were made to almost 27000 residents.  Thousands of volunteers have been connected to help out and over 18200 food parcels have been made up and delivered, 1400 cook n eat boxes and 1400 school meal packed lunch parcels.  School Meal Vouchers were provided to children who were eligible for Free School Meals during the February, Easter, Summer and October holidays and over 4300 prepay cards to households with children on free school meals.  Between late August and September, the Council has delivered 14 community vaccination pop ups in communities where intelligence indicates the take up of the vaccine has been low.  Further pop ups are planned for December.




Since November 2020 there have been requests to help from an estimated 3000 volunteers.  450 individual volunteers through the central process.  200 (average of 10 people per request) from groups/corporate volunteer days and 50 (average of 12 people per group) from environmental groups.


The Council since November 2020 has been contacting residents who have reported as testing positive for Covid 19, initially to check on the welfare of the individual but as the pandemic has progressed the Council continued to take on more responsibility for track and trace locally.


It was queried whether there has been any evidence of fraud in the area relating to grants for business.  It was noted that the Council had put in place quite robust systems and it is not thought that there have been any cases of fraudulent claims made.


It was noted that thanks should be placed on record to all of the officers involved.  It was queried why people come to the Council for help with gaining employment, would it be the Job Centre who would traditionally carry out this role.  It was noted that often cases that the Council deal with may be parked with a company outsourced by DWP given the barriers they have to gaining employment.  These are the people that the Council would help with the schemes they have in place.


RESOLVED -               (i)      That the comments of the Committee in relation to this report be noted.

                                      (ii)      that the results of the Covid-19 survey be brought to the January 2022 meeting.           







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