After the prime minister’s roadmap announcement, we are all feeling positive about getting back to a new ‘normal’.

Thoughts are turning to economic recovery and the chancellor’s budget last week certainly got minds focused on how the economy can recover from the pandemic.

Across the country we have seen businesses failing and unemployment rising. In Southampton, initiatives are already underway to ensure that we can help businesses and residents to recover from the pandemic.

We’ve already described in a previous article how we are supporting businesses through grants to ensure that they are still there when we are allowed to visit them and we are supporting residents and businesses through initiatives like the DWP partnership, the Youth Hub, Transfer to Transform and Kickstart.

But we also need to concentrate on the mid-term to long-term and that is where our proposed Economic and Green Growth strategy comes in. This is a 10 year strategy to establish economic and green growth and to build back better – healthier, fairer, greener. It aims to safeguard existing jobs, support business growth, ensure the city is positioned as strongly as possible to attract inward investment and that residents are able to access the jobs created in the city.

There are already many signs of positivity. It has been estimated that the UK economy will be up to 10.3% higher in 2030 as a result of Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and other technological advances: a recent analysis by the Department for International Trade identified Southampton as the number one location in the South of England with the most potential for investment in AI.

But our vision is not simply about economic growth: it’s about a city that is a great place to live and work.

Initiatives like the Mayflower Quarter master plan, the City Vision Local Plan and the 1,000-home programme will help this, ensuring our city is constantly evolving and is more digitally connected, while attracting new and existing talent and businesses.

But the council’s investment in the city doesn’t stop there. Full details of a £18.5m project to overhaul transport and public spaces in the city centre have just been revealed. The proposals, which are part of the Transforming Cities programme, focus on transforming gateways into the city centre and creating a greener, more inviting environment for everyone living, working and spending time here.

But before we can move to this exciting future, there’s tomorrow to think about, COVID-19 has created significant challenges for Southampton.

Our high streets in our city and district centres, like many others, have had to manage and adapt amidst stringent, evolving measures introduced by the Government to mitigate the risks of COVID-19.

The council is working to effect structural change with a variety of new inward investments proposed including the Bargate Quarter scheme and Leisure World, the new student accommodation at Cumberland Place and various hotel proposals.

These activities will all help the non-essential retail, hospitality and leisure sectors to recover and to save and create jobs.

The announcement in the budget that the initial bid for a Solent Freeport has been successful provides a further opportunity for growth within the city.

There is a lot of work to do – and Loving Local remains a vital way to play your part.

Councillor Steve Leggett, Cabinet Member for Green City & Place