Support for business boosts start-ups and local employment

Woman and man sitting at a desk with a laptop and notebook

Members of Fife Council’s Cabinet Committee received an update on progress against the Leading Economic Recovery Action Plan (LER) today, 25 August 2022, revealing positive economic results as local businesses are supported to meet challenges and Modern Apprenticeship starts are up.

The LER Action Plan provided a short-term response to the economic impact arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and UK exit from the EU.  A raft of support has been made available to Fife businesses to mitigate the pandemic’s impact.

The Economic Recovery Action Plan has been effectively delivered over the past 12-18 months, with the Cabinet report highlighting a host of successes.

  • During 2021-22 Business Gateway Fife, alongside Fife Council Economic Development,  provided advice, signposting and support to over 600 local start-up businesses. This is the highest number for the year across all Scottish local authority areas. In total, almost 3,000 businesses in Fife received advisory support.
  • At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Fife Council administered 10,241 grants, totalling over £106 million to Fife businesses from the Scottish Government’s Coronavirus Business Support Schemes.
  • Fife Council Economic Development business services are actively promoted on the national government business support website findbusinesssupport.gov.scot - providing businesses with a one-door approach for all support services across Fife and Scotland.
  • The new Maygate Exchange enterprise hub in Dunfermline, opening soon, will offer high-tech office space for individuals and small businesses. This is set to boost the area’s economic prospects and is just one of the projects being driven by the council to grow innovation and provide modern business and industrial premises.
  • £2.75 million has been approved for eight town centre place-based investment projects to be taken forward in 2022-23. These include St Margaret's House in Dunfermline, a Leven place-making project between the new railway station and existing bus station and site enabling for a major project in Kirkcaldy. Work is also ongoing on the heritage-led £3 million Inverkeithing Regeneration programme, with work underway on the Grade A-listed Town House.
  • The protection and growth of local employment is central to the council’s plans. Despite the ongoing issues of Covid-19 and Brexit, there were almost 1,800 Modern Apprenticeship starts in Fife in 2021-22. This is 45.7% higher than over 2020-21 and 97.9% of the pre-Covid figure for 2019-20.
  • Tourism plays a significant part in Fife’s economy. Almost 1.8 million tourists visited Fife in 2021, up 53.7% on the previous year. Between 2014 and 2019 the area seen the total number of visits rise by 4% to a total of 2.8 million visits, showing a strong recovery from the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The economic impact of tourism in 2021 was £277.83 million, up 95.1% on 2020. While this is has not yet reached pre-pandemic figures, total employment supported by tourism in Fife for 2021 was 4,343 full-time equivalent posts, up 41% on 2020. In March 2022, the new Welcome to Fife QR code was launched, allowing visitors to Fife to quickly access tourism information via their mobile phones.
  • The 150th Open Golf Championship at the Old Course, St Andrews was successfully delivered in July 2022, attracting a record attendance of around 290,000 visitors. The event showcased Fife to a global audience, providing a post- pandemic boost to international tourism. Many other major tourism events in Fife took place for the first time since 2019, including the 200th Fife Agricultural Show at Cupar.

Cllr Altany Craik, Fife Council Spokesperson - Finance, Economy & Strategic Planning, said: “Fife Council and its partners have supported and grown many of our local businesses over the last 18 months, despite ongoing external issues. We played a crucial role in supporting Fife’s businesses and communities throughout lockdowns and we continue that role in helping recovery.

“The council has successfully moved from a mainly responsive phase back to a largely business as usual status, with officers closely monitor ongoing developments and the response of UK and Scottish governments.

“These remain turbulent times as, like many other countries globally, we face a looming cost-of-living crisis. We continue to provide steadfast, crucial and accessible support to local businesses – across all sectors and sizes -  and individuals to learn and thrive in an altered world. Only by ensuring our businesses are secure can we ensure local people can access the jobs they deserve, our visitors can enjoy the services offered and we can continue to grow our local economy.”

The key actions identified within the LER Action Plan were to:

  • provide signposting, advice, guidance and support to local businesses
  • stimulate economic demand / support access and mobility
  • protect local employment
  • continue to make the case and actively lobby for additional funding and investment
  • support and deliver investment-led economic growth
  • optimise the role of the Council, and its partners, within the local economy around Community Wealth Building (CWB).