Growing a sustainable economy’ (along with ‘A greener future’, ‘empowering communities’ and ‘tackling health inequalities’) is one of four key priorities for Surrey County Council that the Leader, Tim Oliver, has brought forward during an autumn re-set of the Councils aims and work. An economic development strategy statement, outlining the priorities for the Surrey economy, will be published as part of the County Council’s cabinet meeting agenda for its meeting on December 15.

This work has included a community impact assessment, an infrastructure study, a review of socio economic trends and research by the University of Surrey into those sectors of the economy most affected by Covid-19, called for by the Hammond Commission, chaired by Lord Philip Hammond, former Chancellor of the Exchequer. The pandemic has, for instance, had a significant impact on the county’s freelance and self-employed workers, leading to a higher than average take-up of Universal Credit.

“If 50% of homeworking continues, we estimate there will be an additional approximately 150,000 people – equivalent to the population of Guildford – home-working across Surrey. Commuting and spending patterns and consequently commercial and residential property markets are all being affected by homeworking” said Michael.

As part of their work on Surrey’s future economy, the County Council has been looking at the idea of very local, ‘community economies’, where people work, study, play, shop, socialise and are looked after – as often as possible within a 20 minute walk from their home.

“We are starting to see shades of that already in Surrey during the recent lockdowns. It is certainly something we see developing further. For instance, where I live, in Dorking, we have recently had a co-worker venue open which is a work-from-home, coffee shop during the day and a wine bar in the evening,” he said.

While having a strong relationship with the London economy, Michael said there was a greater willingness to look at the potential offered by the economy of the Central South.

“It is clearly a significant gateway to the south coast and major port cities and we will certainly be taking Central South into account in our work going forwards,” he said.

Regenerate North Hampshire & West Surrey virtual conference was an opportunity for Michael and speakers such as Sophie Camburn from Arup, Richard Valentine-Selsey from Savills, Giles Perkins from WSP, Simon Eden from Southern Policy Centre, Rob Dunford from Enterprise M3 LEP and Zach Wilcox from Arup to share their views on the impact of the pandemic and what might follow as a result.

Business South Champion Director Andy Swift was delighted with the positive feedback from attendees

“The support we received was outstanding, with the local professional community, our sponsors, keynote speakers and panellists all turning out in force to share, learn and collaborate.

“As well an appropriate review on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the residential and commercial property sector, we were able to look to the future with insights on future opportunities from Savills residential experts, leading experts from Arup and Michael Coughlin, who also leads on Transformation, Prosperity and Partnership,” he said.