Milton Keynes Council is set to provide £2.25m of funding to local groups and businesses to help drive growth, create new green and creative jobs and help people into the workplace.
It is all part of the council's COVID-19 economic recovery package, and includes a £500,000 Green Business Recovery Fund to drive sustainable recovery schemes and behaviour.
The council expects the national recession will have a disproportionate effect on MK’s poorest and most vulnerable people; local unemployment levels have more than doubled to almost 11,000 in July 2020 and unemployment is hitting young people the hardest – with the number of unemployed claimants aged 18-24 rising almost fourfold. Almost a third of MK’s workers have been furloughed, many facing an uncertain future.
In response, Cabinet will receive the draft Economic Recovery Action Plan on 1 September. Outlined in it are plans to:
Help young and marginalised people find work
- Offering personalised long-term practical support to people who need the greatest help to get back into the workplace – such as young people, mums retuning to work, and the recently furloughed - via a ‘Restart Network’ run by Milton Keynes College.
- Working with cultural partners to create six Cultural Sector Traineeships and two Cultural Sector Apprenticeships to provide inclusive routes into the industry for young people.
- Creating a 12-month programme for young people not in employment, education or training that would increase opportunities for further study, traineeships, apprenticeships and employment.
Create green jobs and practice
- Setting up a £500,000 green business recovery fund to help MK’s businesses develop green business practices in their recovery plans.
- A new green apprenticeship scheme where ten people will build skills in practical conservation and landscaping management.
- Dedicating £50m to retrofit council homes with green technologies alongside existing plans to install energy efficient heating systems and other improvements.
Generate opportunities for small businesses and start ups
- Giving small businesses access to immediate subsidised legal, tax and other support that will help them weather the pandemic, via the Federation for Small Businesses.
- Funding a ‘Wonder Lab’ hub for tech entrepreneurs, and the MK Artificial Intelligence Development programme to develop local skills in the industries of the future.
- Support new start-ups by running virtual events with the Pop-up Business School, giving practical help and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.
These are just some examples of the council’s draft actions. The full plan can be found here.
Milton Keynes Council has already distributed more than £112 million during the pandemic and estimates this work has supported around 30% of businesses in Milton Keynes. It has also extended discretionary business rates relief to major cultural and arts organisations, provided advice, support and free resources to thousands of business owners, and fast tracked the process for local cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars to trade outside, waiving fees for licenses for outdoor tables and chairs.
Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Cllr Carole Baume said: “Businesses and residents in MK have been badly affected by the pandemic and the worst recession our country has ever seen. The Council is supporting those affected with £2.2m of targeted support to help a green recovery and support the most vulnerable and unemployed. We are working with partners to help businesses regain their resilience and individuals to access new opportunities. Milton Keynes’ future success will look more inclusive and more sustainable, and we will keep building on this plan as the impact of the current crisis unfolds.
“We know Milton Keynes has the ambitious spirit to recover from this pandemic. This plan will help unlock some of that brilliant potential.”
James Anderson, Development Manager Thames Valley, Federation of Small Businesses, said: "We welcome the opportunity of working together with Milton Keynes Council to support local businesses, as we come out of lockdown. We are seeing more demand than ever for our services, as small businesses and the self-employed find themselves needing advice and guidance, financial support and a powerful collective voice with government. We are delighted that the council has identified the importance of the smallest businesses to the local economy and we look forward to the opportunity of supporting these businesses."
MK College CEO & Group Principal Dr Julie Mills OBE said: “We are proud of the work we do in supporting students and business across Milton Keynes. This additional funding will allow us to target additional support to those who really need it, providing the skills and help required to return to work. The pandemic has highlighted the power of our community and we are delighted to partner with Milton Keynes Council on this essential ‘Restart Network’.
Chair of MKAI, Richard Foster-Fletcher said: "The appetite for digital skills, particularly in data science is growing significantly in Milton Keynes. With MK:U the vision for Milton Keynes to be a leading Smart City and a magnet for ambitious tech companies, there is no better place to be building an Artificial Intelligence (AI) community. MKAI is proud to be at the digital heart of this exciting New City and it's an honour to be working with the Council to grow the reach and impact of our mission to educate, connect and inspire professionals in Milton Keynes to develop their AI network, skills and knowledge."
Founder of Made in MK, Oliver Waters said: “I’m thrilled to be part of such an exciting collaboration that will bring entrepreneurs and creators from across the local tech and creative communities together. Working closely with our partners at MK Geek Night, Pooleyville and Milton Keynes Council, Wonder Lab will provide a physical and digital home for the community alongside a programme of events, resources and support to connect, inspire and educate.”
Richard Wiggins of Geek Night said: “"The MK Geek Night team are really excited to be working with Milton Keynes Council, along with partners Pooleyville and Made in MK to deliver 'Wonder Lab', a physical and virtual centralised hub in CMK. It's a great opportunity for tech entrepreneurs, the digital communities and creators based in Milton Keynes to come together and get a variety of support and resources. This includes inspirational presentations, workshops, networking and social events, plus up-skilling and 'pitch' opportunities to attract local/regional/national investors, showcase talent and increase awareness of available support."