Archive for the 'business' Category



National Insurance hike would hit Brighton & Hove Hard

The Government’s proposed 1% rise in National Insurance would not only hit residents hard, it would also be another body blow for businesses in Brighton & Hove, at a time when they can least afford it.

At the City Council we have calculated that if it goes ahead, the rise will cost us – as the City’s largest employer – an extra £1.5 million a year. That is £1.5 million of local council tax payers money going straight back into Treasury coffers to pay off the massive debt they have racked up over the last 10 years or so. And at a time when our budget is under such pressure, it is £1.5 million we can ill afford to lose.

Councils wouldn’t be the only public sector organisation to lose out – nationally, the NI increase would cost the NHS £208 million, schools would have to fork out £66 million (equivalent to something like 2,000 teachers) and the Police would face an increased tax bill of £43 million.

Paying off the national deficit has to be the top priority for whichever Government is at the helm next month. But bringing in another tax on jobs (which would hit both private and public sector employers and employees) is surely not the way to go about it. The only long-term way of addressing the underlying structural deficit is to make it easier for businesses to set up and expand. The private sector generates the wealth which enables us to have an NHS, state schools, policing and roads. Sadly, the parties of the Left seem unable to grasp this most basic of economic truths.

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Brighton & Hove’s small businesses face triple tax whammy

Small businesses have taken a real hit recently due to the effects of the recession – difficulties in obtaining credit, less demand for goods and services etc. I think that in Brighton & Hove, by and large, they have weathered this storm very well so far but I do have some real concerns for the coming months.

The main reason for this is that a whole catalogue of factors are coming together to put huge pressure on our local firms. Firstly, VAT went back up to 17.5% on 1st January, pushing the price of goods back up in the shops. Secondly, employer and employee National Insurance contributions are both set to increase by 1% next year which will put huge pressure on local employers and is hardly likely to encourage job creation (I am pleased that David Cameron has indicated that if he wins the general election he will look to scrap at least part of this rise).

But perhaps most worrying of all is the Government’s business rate revaluation, due to come in force from April this year. Nearly 60% of our business ratepayers are set to have an increased bill and around 43% are due to be capped at 5% of 12.5% because their increases are so high. Government publicity has made significant noises about 60% of businesses nationwide experiencing decreases in rates but the opposite is true here in Brighton & Hove. The transitional scheme has been taken up by around 7% of our ratepayers but has merely created a potential time bomb, as businesses will be faced with paying back what they deferred last year, PLUS up to 12.5% increased rates.

I have recently written to the Government Minister – John Denham – on this matter asking him to give areas such as Brighton & Hove some extra support to get the City’s small businesses through this difficult period. We recently put forward a proposal as part of the Sustainable Communities Act which would give Council’s greater flexibility than we have now to offer rate relief to particular businesses and hopefully they will act on this.

A further factor which is adding to the pressure on our smaller independent retailers is the impact that the big supermarket chains are having. They are moving into the City in increasing numbers and under current planning regulations, Councils are powerless to do anything about it.

In the next few weeks I will be looking to build upon the Business Lifebelt Scheme which the Council launched last year which offers practical assistance to a range of businesses and sectors in the city, aiming to help them survive the economic downturn.

Small businesses are crucial to the continued prosperity and well-being of the whole City and I am continuing to look into any ways in which we can help them.

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.

Brighton & Hove: open for business

I was delighted with the decision of the Council’s planning committee last night to give the go-ahead for American Express’ £140 million extension to their Eastern Road site.

This is fantastic news for the local economy at a time when we are still in the middle of a deep recession. 2,000 jobs have been safeguarded by this move and the redevelopment of the site itself is likely to create more than 1,000 construction and related jobs early next year.

This is also a satisfying riposte to those who have branded us ‘anti-development’ as an Administration. Remember that this was only made possible by us agreeing to sell the company the freehold of the existing Amex House building. There is clearly still much more to be done but, coupled with ongoing work at Falmer on the Community Stadium and the new Academy school, this shows that Brighton & Hove is still very much ‘open for business’.


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