Archive for December, 2009

Support for Britain’s Seaside Resorts

 

Last week the Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills – David Willetts MP –  visited Brighton & Hove to launch the party’s new coastal towns action plan. This is a very useful document as it underlines some of the unique challenges that places like Brighton & Hove have faced over the years due to their unique location.

 Some of the policies contained in the action plan include:

 

  • Giving local councils and the police new powers to restrict the large number of late licenses and tackle alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour.
  • Cancelling Labour’s council tax revaluation which intends to charge residents higher council tax for having sea views.
  • Creating a ‘Community Right to Buy’ to allow local groups to take over and save threatened community assets and buildings.
  • Allowing privately owned, listed seaside heritage attractions, such as piers, to apply for Lottery funding.

 

There is also a very strong focus on supporting local businesses and jobs, something which we as a council have prioritised during the recession. For example, we have recently supported Domestic & General to secure 200 new jobs for people who were made redundant when the Lloyds TSB call centre announced it would close. We hope to do more of this sort of thing in the future.

 

Under a future Conservative Government there would be new tax breaks for local firms – including local business rate discounts, lower corporation tax on small firms, a new Business Increase Bonus to reward councils that attract new firms into their areas and waiving National Insurance on new firms which create jobs.

Brighton & Hove has weathered the recession relatively well but we must build on this as we emerge from the downturn. I believe that these new policies will allow us to do just that.

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Welcome to Charlotte Vere!

Last week I met the Conservative’s new prospective parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion – Charlotte Vere. I think that Charlotte is an excellent choice and, if elected next year, I am certain she would serve the residents of that part of the City admirably. However, she is going to be in for a tough fight as both the Greens and Labour are pouring resources into this highly marginal constituency. The Greens particularly, seem to think that they already have it in the bag. I’m not so sure –  the more I see of her, the more I think that Charlotte will be equal to the challenge. It is worth remembering that she came through a very tough ‘open’ selection process which involved a public hustings with non-party members. This will stand her in good stead, as will her background as a highly successful social entrepreneur and businesswoman.

Alongside Mike Weatherley in Hove and Simon Kirby in Brighton Kemptown we have three excellent candidates and I am confident that whenever Gordon Brown choses to call the election, the political landscape in the city will become decidedly blue in 2010!

My political priorities for 2010

Towards the end of last week I announced 10 actions that I want the council to deliver during the next 12 months. These are practical measures that I hope will inspire a renewed spirit of civic pride and will create a city of opportunity. The new programme will focus on the following areas:

1. Better Homes – improve housing in the city and build more affordable family homes

2. Stronger Communities – create stronger communities by focusing on encouraging people at the grassroots to have more say in shaping their communities and our city

3. Civic Renewal – protect and respect our heritage

4. World Class City – build on our reputation as a great place to live, work and visit

5. Community Safety – create safer and more cohesive communities that are resilient to the blight of crime and anti-social behaviour

6. Young people – creating opportunities so young people can meet their aspirations and potential

7. City Circle – ensure older people feel connected with their communities

8. First Class Education – continue to build on our strong education results

9. Sustainable City – promote Brighton & Hove as a sustainable city

10. Sustainable Economy – create a competitive and sustainable local economy

Read the full speech

Government grant – Brighton & Hove loses out

This announcement from the Government that they will only be giving Brighton & Hove City Council a 1.5% increase in central grant doesn’t come as a great surprise but is nonetheless disappointing for the residents of the city. We are once again at the ‘floor’ level of grant, meaning that this is the lowest possible increase we could have got. An increase of 1.5% represents roughly £1.5 million, which is a drop in the ocean when you consider that our overall budget is £750 million. Inflationary pressures alone more than wipe out this increase.

We are working extremely hard to cope with the double whammy of falling income and increased demand for services brought about by the recession. Despite the tough economic outlook, we are ensuring that as much money as possible is spent on the frontline services that so many of the city’s residents and visitors depend on. However, we are not helped in this regard by the ever increasing costs of centralised regulation, inspection and bureaucracy which have resulted from 12 years of a Labour Government which is not prepared to give councils the freedom to get on with it.

We have made over £10 million of efficiency savings over the last couple of years and we are proposing a further £7 million for next year. It is my number one priority to do everything I can again this year to keep council tax as low as possible whilst protecting frontline services. To do anything else at the present time would be to let down the residents and businesses of Brighton & Hove.


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