Posts Tagged 'Hove'

Primary education to return to the Connaught Centre!

Great news today on the schools front – we have managed to reach agreement with City College Brighton & Hove to lease the Connaught Centre for use as a new 3 form entry primary school from next September. In return, we have given City College a lease to develop the City College East site at Wilson Avenue, Whitehawk. So this is a fantastic double-whammy for the City’s children and young people – not only do we have a step-change in the provision of primary places in Hove but it also allows further investment in facilities for the next generation of school leavers in need of jobs training.

The shortage of primary school places in the west of the City was something which we inherited when coming into Administration in 2007 and we have been working very hard to address it. We have already expanded Davigdor Infant, Somerhill Junior, West Blatchington Primary, Goldstone Primary, Westdene Primary and Benfield Junior Schools, but the acquisition of the Connaught takes things onto another level.

The Grade 2 listed Connaught Centre, was originally built for primary education back in 1884 and all parties were determined that it should be kept in community use for educational purposes. I’m delighted we’ve been able to achieve that and I would like to thank Phil Frier at City College for his constructive approach to the negotiations.

Coming on the back of the opening of the new Brighton Aldridge Community Academy and record GCSE results, I’m delighted with the way that education in the City is progressing at the moment.

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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.

Brighton & Hove White Nights!

Just a quick reminder that Brighton & Hove’s White Night festival is taking place overnight this weekend – just what we need as the nights start to draw in and the clocks go back, depriving us of an hour of sunlight!

Last year’s festival – the first one we have staged – was a huge success with over 15,000 people attending and this year’s promises to be even bigger and better. Dozens of indoor venues will be opening in the city, while around 20 outdoor locations are staging events and performances.  Elsewhere there are a number of night time trails and tours around the city.

This year we have also been working closely with Amiens in France, who held a corresponding ‘nuit blanche’ last weekend.

I am very proud of the fact that more people take part in the arts and cultural activities in Brighton & Hove than in any other English city outside of London. Events like White Nights (and the Brighton Festival which takes place in the Spring) help to explain why and so I would encourage everyone to go along and take in the atmosphere!

e-petitions come to Brighton & Hove City Council!

From November 21st, Brighton & Hove’s residents will be able to submit e-petitions to the Council in order to register their views and ask us to take action on matters of importance to them. This is a really exciting development which was agreed by the whole Council at our meeting last Thursday. E-petitions have proven to be a real success elsehwere in the UK – most notably at the Scottish Parliament and on the number 10 Downing Street website. I’m convinced that they will prove to be just as much of a hit here (a recent Government survey found that as a city, we are one of the most switched on in the country in relation to wanting to get involved in the democratic process).

At the moment, residents can collect names and submit petitions manually at our various committee meetings (usually with the help of your local ward councillor) but the facility to now do this online should make things a whole lot easier.

I find that petitions are a really valuable way of keeping in touch with the issues that are concerning people in the city and are a vital part of an open and transparent democratic process. I will provide details of how to access the online petitions facility nearer the time.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to feedback any comments etc. to me then please do so via this blog or by e-mail – mary.mears@brighton-hove.gov.uk

Looking forward to the Brighton Marathon

brighton_marathonThe inaugural Brighton Marathon, which takes place on Sunday 18th April 2010, promises to be a fantastic occasion for the City and, from what I have seen and heard, residents are embracing it wholeheartedly. Last week was the Brighton Marathon charity partners’ launch and I’m sure that huge amounts of money will be raised for numerous local good causes.

As a council we were very keen for this to be an event for the local community and that is why we insisted on holding 1,000 of the places in the marathon for people from the BN postcode. Just as the London Marathon has become a real community celebration, so we want the Brighton Marathon to be too.

Talking about London, the Marathon is real boost to our lead up to the Olympic Games in 2012. We are planning an extensive programme of sports participation and cultural events and performances to encourage residents to become more active and involved in sport. The marathon will take pride of place alongside international events like the recent ‘White Air’ extreme sports festival and more local events including The Brighton & Hove Aqua Festival and the TakePart International Festival of Sport

And for the budding Paula Radcliffes amongst you, there is still an opportunity to take part in the race.


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