Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and the Combined Authority Cabinet have today (27 November) agreed a £16.5million programme to support the long-term recovery of the creative and visitor sectors in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The £16.5million will be used to support business resilience, development and growth, attract new events to the region, grow local festivals and events and boost Tees Valley’s profile as a visitor destination.
These sectors, including culture, leisure and tourism, have been badly hit by the outbreak of the virus. It is projected that there will be a loss of 48.4% to Tees Valley’s visitor economy in 2020, while 44% of creative, culture, tourism and hospitality businesses have reported that their businesses may have to permanently close, compared to 28% across all sectors.
In response, Mayor Houchen established a Task Force, chaired by ARC’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director Annabel Turpin, to provide sector-led advice and insight into the challenges and opportunities these businesses face. This helped inform the new programme, focused on recovery, regeneration and growth of the creative and visitor sectors.
The new programme complements work previously done to immediately help the region’s hospitality and tourism businesses, including the £1million Welcome Back Fund which helped hospitality companies reopen safely following the first national lockdown.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “As well as protecting people’s health, one of my top priorities during this coronavirus pandemic has been to protect people’s jobs, businesses and livelihoods.
“We did that in the short-term by moving quickly with funding to help our pubs, restaurants, hotels and other public-facing businesses open back up as soon as possible after the first lockdown, but now we need to look to the longer term and make sure these valuable sectors are fit for the future.
“This £16.5million programme is tightly focused to help bring more brilliant events to our region and shore up our businesses, helping them grow in the long term. This will not only create jobs and drive growth but making Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool an even better place to live and visit.”
Cllr Shane Moore, Combined Authority Cabinet Lead on Culture & Tourism, said: “We have great creators, festivals, companies and education establishments working in culture, leisure and hospitality that we can’t afford to lose.
“Now more than ever we need to give people things to look forward to, as well as support those businesses that keep our high streets and communities interesting and local people in jobs. We’ve listened to the people that know their sectors the best and with this new scheme, we can push ahead to get them out of the other side of this pandemic stronger than before.”
Annabel Turpin said: ““This is a real boost for the sector during challenging times and shows that by working collaboratively we can make an even more valuable contribution to our local economy.
“Our creative and visitor economies in the Tees Valley are tightly linked so it’s fantastic that this new programme recognises and celebrates that. I’m delighted that TVCA involved businesses and organisations from the cultural and creative sector in shaping future strategy. I look forward to continuing our partnerships as we all have a crucial role to play in helping the sectors grow and create more opportunities for local people.”
Other items agreed at today’s Combined Authority Cabinet meeting included the introduction of free car parking in town centres across the Tees Valley; a commitment of £11.5million to fully fund delivery of the Portrack Link Road which will enable the New Tees Crossing to progress and £645,000 funding to extend the successful Wheels 2 Work ride-to-work scheme for three years.