The economic recovery from the pandemic offers a real opportunity to create jobs and protect the environment.
As we come to terms with the damage coronavirus has inflicted on our communities, our economic recovery presents a real opportunity to rebuild, and councils are already developing post-COVID-19 economic recovery options.
Millions of people have been put on furlough or fallen into unemployment through no fault of their own, while, at the same time, the closure of businesses and factories has resulted in a significant – if short-lived – reduction in carbon emissions.
As the Government turns its focus to recovery, creating jobs and protecting the environment must both be key parts of any recovery plan.
This isn’t new to council leaders, who have the experience of dealing with local economic shocks in the past and who worked closely with the Government on the Future Jobs Fund directly after the 2008 recession.
The LGA has long called for national skills and employment schemes, and funding, to be devolved to local areas, while, at the same time, driving the climate change agenda at a local level. At the LGA’s annual conference last year, 230 councils declared climate emergencies and committed to reducing carbon emissions to zero in their communities.
Research commissioned by the LGA from Ecuity Consulting reveals that demand for green jobs will increase rapidly as the country transitions to a net-zero economy, which will help to counter the job losses that are likely to increase further when furlough ends from October.
In 2018, there were 185,000 full-time workers in England’s green economy. Nearly 700,000 direct jobs could be created by 2030, rising to 1.2 million by 2050, and the growth is expected to benefit every region in England.
Many councils already have detailed plans in place. Kent County Council intends to extend the wind farm off the coast of Thanet, making it one of the largest producers of renewable electricity in England, while Portsmouth City Council is developing a hybrid electric ferry service to the Isle of Wight.
During the pandemic, councils’ role as leaders of place has been emphasised as never before, leading local efforts to trace the virus and providing billions in financial support to businesses.
Councils have been trusted to deliver, and this local approach should be extended to devolving national skills and employment schemes to them and to combined authorities. This would enable them to work with businesses and education providers to train and retrain people of all ages so they can benefit from the green jobs revolution.
Demand for green jobs will require a diverse range of skills and expertise to roll out clean technologies, install energy efficient products in our homes and workplaces, and build wind farms. Local areas need to be able match skills supply and demand through effective local targeting to bridge skills gaps, so that the local workforce is equipped to meet emerging demand
In doing so, the Government will also need to improve uncoordinated and limited funding streams by engaging with councils to understand how new funding for skills can be devolved to better meet and respond to local need, to support the creation of new jobs and develop a pipeline of skills at a local level.
With greater decision-making and funding powers, councils can begin to lead from the front on the nation’s green agenda, at the same time as creating new jobs and inclusive economies. We look forward to working with the Government on this issue, which affects us all.