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Gloucestershire Business News

Council earmarks £1.5m of covid funds for 'levelling up' in Gloucestershire

Investment of almost £1.5million has been earmarked from unspent Covid funds to help the next phase of Gloucestershire's 'levelling up'.

The county council wants the money to be spent on improving communities and reducing health inequalities across the county- to help ease the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

A report going to the Gloucestershire County Council's cabinet next Wednesday (Sept 20) recommends £1,479,954 is allocated for the scheme from the Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF).

It was given to local authorities in the height of the pandemic to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and support local public health. The council has a surplus as projects underspent or found alternative funding and the rates of Covid-19 have now reduced in the UK.

It is proposed that £949,954 is allocated to target broader issues such as digital inclusion, cost of living, online harms and community transport.

A further £530,000 would be used to top up the Build Back Better Councillor Scheme, giving an additional £10,000 to each county councillor to spend in their division.

The report by council officer Diana Billingham said: "Our second phase recognises that as the county continues to recover from Covid 19, the impacts of the pandemic are still being felt by many of our residents."

It added: "Addressing these issues is important in ensuring that we learn the lessons of the pandemic and tackle the ongoing significant barriers to wellbeing that can cause harm across the county, regardless of where people live."

The second phase of investment would see the following key areas highlighted:

Digital inclusion - The gap in society between people who have full access to digital technologies and those who do not is called the 'digital divide'. Digital solutions are an essential part of our future and we aim to address barriers and ensure that some of our most vulnerable residents are not left behind, with a lasting legacy of digital inclusion.

Cost of living - Supporting people who have been impacted by the rising costs of fuel, food and housing costs and other essentials.

Online harms - Identifying ways to support young people to understand and recognise issues concerning internet safety, as well as the threat of radicalisation, abusive behaviour and self-harm, and find safe and supportive solutions.

Access to services and community transport - Some communities and groups face particular disadvantages in transport and mobility, including older adults, those with disabilities, young people and those in rural communities. The county council aims to provide accessible and sustainable transport solutions as part of its ambition to 'level up' communities.

The council launched its Levelling Up Together grant scheme last year, which allocated £1.5m to support the most deprived areas in the county. It received 127 applications from groups and organisations working in eligible areas and awarded 52 grants totalling £1,458,712.50.

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said: "We want every resident in Gloucestershire to have an equal opportunity for a healthy and happy life.

"This additional investment will help us tackle some of the barriers that our communities face."

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