Brighton & Hove City Council
leader Cllr Mary Mears on what measures her Council is doing to help business survive the recession. The Council is getting out of the way – by ceasing road works in the City Centre over Christmas to help people shop.

As economic gloom engulfs the national
mood and the Government drops tax bombshells on any hopes of a quick
recovery, many local councillors will have been left wondering what
they can do to help their residents through the tough times.

In Brighton & Hove we know there
is little we can do to change the national economic picture, so we have
focused our efforts on what practical actions the City Council can take
to help shield local businesses and residents from the credit crunch.

We’ve offered local businesses
an emergency ‘recession relief’ package, which contains a number
measures to keep the city trading and make life a little bit easier
for businesses. Small businesses tell us that one of the biggest problems
they face is cash flow, therefore we’ve committed to:

  • paying small businesses
      for goods and services within 10 days of receiving their invoice;
  • offering small businesses
      monthly rent payments, as opposed to quarterly, on a case-by-case basis;
  • giving small businesses,
      on agreement,  the opportunity to pay business rates in 12 annual
      instalments as opposed to 10;
  • funding more business
      support clinics to advise businesses on dealing with the issues they

The Council has also created an ‘economic
taskforce’ – with representatives from the public and private sectors
– to monitor the crisis and investigate what more we can do. As a result
of the taskforce, next week we’re launching a ‘Buy Local’ campaign
to encourage our residents to spend their money in local shops and businesses.
We want to keep our residents’ money in the city so it can be re-invested
in the local economy and used to protect jobs.

My administration wants to ensure
that local businesses are able to take full advantage of the boost in
Christmas spending. For this to happen shops must be easily accessible,
so I’ve instructed council officers to cease all major roadworks in
the city centre over the Christmas period. The council works closely
with the utility companies and has persuaded them to agree to a similar
suspension. As their works constitute three-quarters of the jobs in
the city centre, this should have a really positive impact on flow of
traffic and encourage city centre shopping.

As Conservatives we recognise it
is our duty to better use public funds and offer our residents value
for money. Last year we introduced the lowest council tax increase in
the history of the city council, giving residents a cut in council tax
in real terms. We’ve set out realistic, ambitious spending plans and
are committed to further reduce the rate of council tax increases in coming years.

Only a change in government can stop
the Chancellor further wrecking the public finances, but in the mean
time I believe there is more that Conservative councils can do to support
their local economies; too much for me to detail here.  It’s
our responsibility to take effective, practical action to tackle issues
that affect our residents and make ‘value for money’ central to
our delivery of good core services – and that is what we will continue
to do.

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