Cllr Geoffrey Theobald is the Conservative Group Leader on Brighton & Hove City Council

The last few months have seen a raft of figures which give cause for cautious optimism about Brighton & Hove’s future and demonstrate that the Government’s long term economic plan and welfare reforms are working.

I would just like to highlight a few of these:

  • Unemployment benefit claims are at their lowest level in Brighton & Hove since records began in 1992. There are now a record number of people in work.
  • A record number of companies formed in Brighton & Hove in 2013. The influential Centre for Cities think tank recently said that Brighton & Hove is the third best place in the country for small and medium sized businesses to operate and that they are helping to fuel the UK’s economic recovery.
  • The number of empty shops in Brighton is at its lowest level since the recession and one of the lowest rates in the UK.
  • There has been a significant reduction in the number of council tax benefit claimants over the last year, saving council taxpayers £1.2 million.
  • The city’s business rate base is growing. Thanks to the Government’s new Business Rate Retention scheme, this means more money is staying in the local economy rather than going straight to the Treasury.
  • The Government has just agreed Growth Deal investment of £443 million with the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership including funding for exciting regeneration schemes at two large disused brownfield sites in Brighton.
  • There has been significantly lower than expected expenditure on homelessness and hardship funds in Brighton & Hove in the last year
  • Over 250 Council homes in Brighton & Hove that were previously under-occupied (for example, single people living in 3 bedroom houses) have been freed up for local families to move into since the Government abolished the Spare Room Subsidy

Whilst we obviously cannot be complacent, these are all very promising signs that the economic recovery is taking hold here on the south coast. The Labour Party’s predictions of armageddon about the Government’s economic policies and welfare reforms have proven to be nothing more than scaremongering and I urge them to now get behind the city’s businesses and residents rather than
constantly talking the economy down.

Whilst the Government is getting on with creating new jobs and helping to get people off welfare benefits, all the local Labour Party can offer is a year long talking shop – or “Fairness Commission” to “tackle poverty and inequality” in the city. No doubt many forests worth of paper will be sacrificed to arrive at the momentous conclusion that the way to address ingrained poverty is to get people off welfare dependency and into work.

Brighton & Hove is an incredibly popular and vibrant city where creativity and entrepreneurship abound. Clearly difficult challenges still lie ahead, not least addressing the chronic shortage of housing in the city, which must be a top priority in the coming years. But with the continuing positive economic news and £420 million of Government funding secured for a new state of the art hospital we have every reason to be optimistic and positive about the future of our city.