A COUNCILLOR chosen to lead a new panel aimed at harnessing the social sector has appealed to businesses to become an ambassador for St Helens and help the city region recover from the impacts of Covid-19.

More than 100 businesses, schools and other organisations have signed up to the St Helens Ambassadors programme since it launched it 2017.

The scheme says it will bring together the knowledge, networks, passion and determination of businesses, organisations and individuals "as a powerful force".

Labour councillor Kate Groucutt, who recently took over St Helens Borough Council's new cabinet education skills and business portfolio, is now encouraging more community and social businesses to join its Abassadors programme and aid the city region’s economic recovery.

Cllr Groucutt, deputy portfolio holder for inclusive economy and third sector at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, has been selected to chair a new expert advisory panel of leaders from community and socially trading organisations across the city region.

The sector supports 50,000 jobs locally and generates £2.9 billion in income a year for the local economy, yet its contribution has often been overshadowed by a focus on the commercial sector.

The combined authority's social and solidarity economy reference panel will advise Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and other policymakers on on how to maximise the contribution of the burgeoning social sector, as the city region economy recovers from the effects of the pandemic.

Cllr Groucutt said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the need to rebalance our economy and focus on sectors that generate sustainable and inclusive growth rather than short-term profit, and are rooted in local communities.

“We have a growing number of businesses in St Helens that do just that, and across the Liverpool City Region the sector employs 50,000 people and generates nearly £3 billion in economic and social value.

“This new panel, which the Metro Mayor has established as part of his recovery plan for the region, brings together these socially trading organisations with the traditional voluntary and community sector, which did so much to support our communities during Covid-19 and continues to play such an important role in our borough.

“Social businesses combine both an entrepreneurial spirit with a community focus and are often registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC).

“Some great examples in St Helens are Changing Communities CIC, which runs the Restore Project in Sutton upcycling furniture, Nobody Should Be Hungry CIC which runs the Newton Community Fridge, and MPH Training CIC based in my own ward of Parr.”

Cllr Groucutt will be joined on the Metro Mayor’s panel by Debra Hill, who founded the social enterprise OLCOTWISH CIC (Our Little Corner of the World in St Helens).

Debra also runs Cafe Laziz, a community café run by refugees and asylum seekers in Central Link Children’s Centre.

St Helens Star: Cafe Laziz opened in September 2019Cafe Laziz opened in September 2019

“I know there are many more,” Cllr Groucutt said.

“And I’d like to encourage all community businesses to get in touch and join the council’s Ambassadors programme, in order to access a supportive network and development opportunities.

“The Metro Mayor has also committed £6.5 million to establish Kindred, a social investment programme to support the growth of the social economy across the City Region, and we want to make sure that St Helens based organisations are accessing this support.

“With my new cabinet portfolio here in St Helens focusing on skills and business support, as well as education, I’ll be looking for new ways for us to help people to retrain, start a new business and support our plans for a greener and more local economic model.

“We have some fantastic role models doing just that, who can provide inspiration and support along the way.”

For more information about St Helens Ambassadors email cathyrnwhite@sthelens.gov.uk