West Lothian Covid-19 economic impact task force

A special meeting of West Lothian’s Jobs Task Force was held last week to look at the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stock photo by John Devlin.

The meeting was chaired by executive councillor for development and transport, Cathy Muldoon and included representatives from West Lothian College, Skills Development Scotland, Visit West Lothian, Scottish Enterprise, West Lothian Council and the Federation of Small Business. The Task Force discussed the current situation, national economic predictions and set about developing an Action Plan to ensure that as much support as possible is put in place to assist local companies and workers.

Some economic reports believe that the country’s fall in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the next year will be the worst in living memory, with unemployment levels set to rise along with national debt levels.

Councillor Muldoon said: “The stark reality is that there is not going to be an area in the UK that is not adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the economic predictions are deeply worrying to say the least.

“What impact there will be both locally and nationally will become clearer in the near future but, at this stage, all we can do is plan as best we can, ensuring that local businesses and workers are supported. The priority at this stage is to stay at home and protect each other as best we can. This will help to save lives.

“However we can’t ignore the obvious challenges that we face going forward. It is very important that we continue to look at what we can do to help support West Lothian.”

The council’s Economic Development team are drawing up an Action Plan to address issues in supporting the recovery period.

Councillor Muldoon said: “There is a great deal that the task force members can share with each other in terms of information and resources and we will all pull in the same direction. There are a number of practical measures that the council can take and plans are already being put in place to do what we can to help local businesses. For example, to look at what we can do to encourage local people to shop local when restrictions allow, and support West Lothian businesses.

“The council has increased the amount of services and products procured from West Lothian companies over recent years and there will be a sustained move towards increasing that figure over the coming weeks and months ahead.

“We know that many businesses are finding this period extremely challenging. The council has administered 1,706 local Business Support Grants to date, paying out over £19 million.  Seven hundred and eighteen West Lothian businesses operating in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors have been included in the 100% rates relief programme which totals £24.462 million.

“It is imperative that we all pull together to continue to support the local economy, local companies and local people throughout this crisis.”