Support for local businesses announced

A range of measures to support local businesses during the recession have today been announced by Bath and North East Somerset Conservatives. With the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday to agree this year’s budget proposals, the Conservatives have said that taking action to mitigate the effects of the recession on local businesses has to be a top priority. The proposals have been drawn up following consultation with the business community, including the Initiative for Bath and North East Somerset, the Bath, Midsomer Norton and Radstock and Chew Valley Chambers of Commerce, and with business leaders who attended the recent ‘budget fair’.

The Council’s budget will be debated at a meeting of the full Council on 17th February.
Key elements of the Conservatives’ proposals include:-

  • £50,000 for appropriate measures to promote the local economy. Details of how this will be best spent are to be discussed with Future Bath Plus.
    £20,000 to support public events that will assist in generating footfall in the urban areas.
    Investing an extra £50,000 in street cleaning with a primary but not exclusive emphasis on the City Centre. This amount will be used to complement the review of priorities and services already being conducted by the City Centre Manager, the Bath City Liaison Forum and otherwise within the Council
    Providing an additional £150,000 to offset prospective parking charge increases. This amount is in addition to the announcement last week of the £100,000 efficiency savings and the use of the £120,000 VAT saving that will be used to fund a three month freeze on car parking charges. The three month period will be used for discussions between the Council and business / residents regarding the how, when and where of any changes to parking charges – consistent with the Council’s medium term objectives of balanced budgets and reducing congestion. Sunday Park & Ride and other measures will also be explored.
    Through Business West we are sponsoring ‘Credit Crunch Clinics’. We are also encouraging businesses experiencing or anticipating difficulties to make ‘Early Contact’, including a ‘Phone an Expert’ facility.
    Continuing to promote take-up of Small Business Rate Relief (take up in B&NES is 70% compared to a national average of 41%).
    Continuing to pay our suppliers promptly (over 93% are paid within 30 days). We have ruled out committing to payments in periods shorter than 30 days as it would involve significant systems and adminstration costs that would need to be passed on to Council Taxpayers.
    Continuing the substantial investments to progress the Visions for Bath, Keynsham and the Somer Valley so the area is well-positioned as and when the recession ends.
    Reviewing the Council’s Procurement Policies to ensure they are as local-business friendly as possible while meeting EU tendering rules.
    Maintaining a constructive relationship with the Council’s tenants. Continuing to be flexible, as a commercially responsible landlord, and engaging in discussions with tenants who face difficulties. The Council cannot, however, use Council Taxpayers’ money to support individual commercial businesses inappropriately.
    Setting aside a ‘Recession Reserve’ of the order of £500,000 for the coming year to protect Council Taxpayers from any shortfalls in Council income due to the recession, as well as for ongoing consideration of specific measures throughout the year to mitigate the effects of the recession on the Council and local businesses.

The Conservatives have said that it is vital to maintain a healthy economy throughout the Bath and North East Somerset area and to protect the Council’s commercial income in Bath which provides £20 million for the Council to spend for the benefit of Council Taxpayers and business across the whole area. The Council’s interests are aligned with those in business.

Councillor Malcolm Hanney, the Conservative Cabinet Member in charge of Resources, said:

“Our plans set out a wide range of measures which will help support our local economy during the recession. After consultation with the business community we are able to put forward constructive proposals whilst not placing an unnecessary burden on Council Tax-payers. We will continue to work with our partners in the business community to take the measures necessary to support our local economy.”