AS you may know, we like to have a peek over the border to see what is happening in a variety of political chambers. Across in Basildon, Brexit weighs heavily on their minds.
By Local Democracy Reporter
NO council projects are planned to help Basildon “survive and prosper” after the UK leaves the European Union, a Labour councillor has warned.
The party’s deputy leader, Councillor David Burton-Sampson, raised concerns during a discussion about cuts to next year’s budget.
When he questioned why part of the economic development budget had been slashed from £189,000 in 2018 to just £28,000 in 2019, he was told it was because no projects have been planned. Previous years included initiatives to create employment opportunities and develop skills.
Mr Burton-Sampson said: “This really worries me. We are saying that in the year we are leaving the EU there is nothing specific that is going into this budget that is going to help this borough either to prosper – if we do prosper when we leave the EU – or ride the storm that is going to come as a result of leaving the EU.
“I am deeply concerned that there are no projects or innovation or whatever it may be built into this budget to help this borough economically grow or survive leaving the EU and that really, really concerns me. I will encourage my councillors not to vote for this budget because we should be looking at more money applied to this particular area.”
He went on to successfully propose the formation of a working group that will work with retailers on the High Street as it goes “through its biggest change it has ever gone through”.
Speaking after the meeting, he said: “I am not in administration and it should not be me that is coming up with these ideas. We shouldn’t be cutting such an important service area.
“This is about driving growth in the borough, we need growth so we can create jobs that bring opportunities to residents and it is also about building the right skills that get people into employment. The danger of going into a year with nothing in place is that it will have a knock-on effect and potentially lead to a loss of jobs.”
Basildon Council is expected to publish a report on the impact of Brexit in March.
Councillor Andrew Schrader, Chairman of the Economic Development and Growth Committee, said: “While negotiations are still underway, we understand that local businesses will need to prepare for the challenges and opportunities leaving the EU may present to trade and export. This is why we are in the process of producing a specialist research report to support businesses and identify specific needs, which will be available from March this year. The council will also continue to work in partnership with the Essex Chamber of Commerce, Invest Essex and neighbouring local authorities to support businesses in taking advantage of the opportunities to access new markets and to promote growth and investment in the borough.
“The supplies and services budget for the Economic Development and Growth Committee in 2018/19 included one-off initiatives such as the Go Trade project, for which funding will be reclaimed from the EU, the Pathways to Success Panel and the Advice Store. These are currently being delivered and will continue until at least 2019/20, paving the way for existing resources to be used in a more focused way to support residents and businesses. We have laid the foundations to reduce any negative effects of Brexit and will also take advantage of the opportunities new technology presents to gain improved knowledge.”