Plans to tackle the economic recovery of the West Lothian area are well underway and a draft Economic Recovery and Growth Plan has been developed. The Plan aims to mitigate the consequences for the local economy moving forward.
The Plan will be led by the West Lothian Jobs Task Force who are working to prepare for the area's economic recovery post Covid-19.
The task force includes partners such as the council, Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and West Lothian College who work together to help boost the local economy, attract new investment and upskill workers. The council also works closely with The Federation of Small Businesses and West Lothian Chamber of Commerce to connect with local businesses.
Local businesses are being invited to consider the draft plan and put forward their views on how best tackle the challenges caused as a result of COVID-19.
The draft Action Plan sets out measure to help create 500 new, high value, jobs and protect a further 1,750 that are assessed as being at risk.
The plan also sets out how improved tracking of economic forecasts and access to reliable data will help ensure West Lothian businesses are more flexible and able to predict national trends.
One key outcome of the draft plan is to increase the level of local procurement by the council to 40% each year and help local businesses. The plan also includes measures to provide support for school leavers, and provide more training ad upskilling, generally, within growth sectors.
Executive councillor for development and transport and Chair of the West Lothian Jobs Task Force, Cathy Muldoon said: "For the foreseeable future, COVID-19 will have a major impact on our economy.
"The sobering news this week is that in the last three months the country's economy has fallen by over 19%. That is an enormous drop and we have not yet witnessed the potentially catastrophic economic legacy that this virus will leave behind.
"It is therefore vital that we use our well-established partnerships through the Jobs Task Force to put in place an action plan to help mitigate the consequences of our local economy and communities. We are reaching out to local businesses to support us in ensuring that we have the right support in place to help them navigate through these unprecedented times and take advantage of the opportunities in new emerging markets.
"However, the plan needs to reflect the diverse needs of business owners and the self-employed - and that is why we need to hear from the business community as a whole. By providing feedback businesses will give us a better understanding of the impact COVID-19 has had on local business and the support required now and into the future. Feedback will fundamentally help shape the plan and ensure the voice of local enterprise is heard."
Last month, a report by KPMG on the UK Economic Outlook forecasts West Lothian to be the least affected local authority area in the whole of Scotland.
Craig McCorriston, the council's Head of Planning, Economic Development and Regeneration added:
"There isn't an area of the country that will not feel the impact of COVId-19, unfortunately. Some predictions are very bleak whilst others, are less so. In truth, the situation is fast paced and moving all the time. We believe it is almost impossible at this stage to accurately predict what impact there will be in West Lothian but we can take confidence from KPMG's study who looked at a number of factors. Our focus will remain on developing our own plans to protect and enhance local businesses, job creation and the area as a whole.
"Our draft plan recognises the need for flexibility and to move with developments as they occur, most of which are out with our control. Therefore our plan will also develop and change as time goes by.
"What we do know is that West Lothian is well placed to deal with economic challenges that lie ahead, overall, in terms of location, skillset and facilities. Many local businesses have told us of their plans to continue to grow and develop in West Lothian over the next year or so and there is a lot of positive news out there. That is not a lot of comfort to those individuals who have suffered over recent weeks and months, however and we will continue to work with partners to help and support those people as best we can. The best way to help the local economy is to provide an environment that allows businesses to grow and prosper and that is our primary aim.
"We would very much appreciate feedback from the local business community on our draft plan."