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Restart, Reboot, Rethink – Planning for Cumbria’s Economic Recovery

2020 has been a year unlike any other, with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic being felt locally, nationally and globally. The health challenges presented by the pandemic have also had significant repercussions for the economy, businesses and jobs including here in Cumbria. Despite these challenges we have seen businesses, communities and Cumbria as a whole pull together to support each other through these most difficult of times.

At the outset of the pandemic, Cumbria LEP took responsibility for leading the Business and Economic Response and Recovery Group (BERRG) of the Local Resilience Forum (LRF). BERRG was tasked with coordinating the private, public and voluntary and community sector’s efforts in both responding to and recovering from the economic impact of COVID-19 at a county-wide level. This included responsibility for developing Cumbria’s Recovery Plan at the right time.

Members began producing their working draft of ‘Restart, Reboot, Rethink – A Plan for Cumbria’s Economic Recovery’ in August. This was based around three phases – restart, reboot, rethink – that would run in parallel, recognising that different parts of the economy would be at different stages.

  • Restart – getting and keeping the economy moving and leaving behind the emergency response phase.
  • Reboot – defining a revised flightpath back to the priorities with in the Local Industrial Strategy (LIS), recognising that the economic landscape has changed significantly since the initial LIS was developed.
  • Rethink – focussing on the changes that have happened during the pandemic and identifying those themes in which Cumbria has competitive advantage that go with the grain of national policy and investment.

It was clear that recovery would always be an iterative process given the nature of the pandemic and as such the focus has been on different phases at different times.

The Rethink themes will be critical to the recovery effort and the six themes are based around those things in which Cumbria has a definite competitive advantage and that go with the grain of policy and investment. These are:

Clean Energy Production – a world recognised heritage and expertise which provides the platform for significant future investment in energy generation.

Diversity to Thrive – maximising business opportunities by localising supply chains, moving into new markets and looking for diversification opportunities.

The New Visitor Experience – capturing the changes in sustainable visitor behaviour by offering a world class experience to a wide range of markets.

The Future of Food – enhancing Cumbria’s crop-based food production to sit alongside its existing meat and dairy experience.

Cumbria – The UK’s Natural Capital – promoting and using the economic benefits flowing from having the most protected landscape in England.

The Way We Live, The Way We Work Now – benefitting from people rethinking the way that they live, work and invest, going forward.

These rethink priorities sit alongside identifying the key infrastructure projects to support growth across the County. In addition, CLEP’s Sector Panels have undertaken sector-specific planning that identified the actions to be taken to support resilience and growth. These underpin the overarching Recovery Plan.

What we have all learnt during the pandemic is that the only current certainty going forward is uncertainty. However, by developing ‘Restart, Reboot, Rethink – A Plan for Cumbria’s Economic Recovery’ and moving forward those things that we can within it, we are in the best possible place to see Cumbria recover from the worst economic effects of COVID-19.

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