I already posted a ‘vlog’ on my Facebook page back on 15th February about the February meeting of Full Council and the passing of the 2019/20 Conservative Budget but I thought it would be worth uploading my budget speech on this website. You can also watch the webcast of the meeting here.
“Thank-you, Mr. Mayor. I rise to support the budget so ably moved by my friend and ward colleague, Councillor Sullivan. It’s a budget that meets the aspirations the Conservatives have for Basildon.
As Basildon celebrates her 70th birthday, this budget reignites the New Town sense of aspiration, common purpose and innovation, which has made Basildon a byword for entrepreneurism.
It’s been a privilege to chair the new Economic Development & Growth Committee. As an Administration, Conservatives have been very alive to the challenges. We know residents are often in low-skilled, low-paid jobs, in vulnerable sectors like retail and financial services. Their wages have fallen when they’ve been increasing elsewhere in the UK and they face threats from the negative effects of automation.
But Basildon people have huge drive and determination to better themselves – and the Borough is full of opportunity and potential. We’re a magnet for ‘future sectors’ like ICT and Digital, with 183% growth in the last 5 years. We’re determined to nurture this growth and help these businesses thrive, assisting our people into more secure, better paid employment.
Last month, we opened the Advice Store for jobs and more in Basildon Town Centre, which is providing opportunities for residents of all ages and skillsets to access advice and information on how to find work, change careers, start an apprenticeship, and much more besides – I feel I should warn people; I’m volunteering there myself next week, so if productivity suddenly dips, you’ll all know why!
Originally budgeted for just one year – like so many things – it’s already proved very successful and I’m delighted the Administration is putting in an additional £50,000 to continue working with partners to provide this invaluable new service for residents.
The Advice Store is also the central point for the South Essex Construction Hub, providing residents with training and employment opportunities linked with development projects across the Borough and South Essex.
We also want to support our budding entrepreneurs and small-to-medium-sized enterprises. That’s why we’ve submitted a bid to the South Essex Local Enterprise Partnership, with match funding, to unlock a £1.7 million scheme, supported by the business community, to bring to the Borough an Innovation Warehouse, to provide them with space to develop their ideas and help them access new technologies, equipment and business support.
This could complement our proposed Basildon Town Centre ‘Digi Hub’, a co-working space for micro-businesses within the ICT/Digital sector, for which we’ve submitted a match-funded bid to the Future High Streets Fund, potentially introducing a new Town Centre offer to replace reduced retail.
But that’s not all, Mr. Mayor. To help stimulate the local economy for small businesses and entrepreneurs, we’re creating a £100,000 fund, that I’m provisionally calling ‘Bid at the Bas Centre’, which will allow SMEs or just anyone with an idea, to come and make a pitch for a small grant to help purchase equipment or materials, to allow them to start-up or grow and help bring their idea to life.
The details of this scheme will be worked up and presented to the Committee before implementation, but I’m hopeful it’ll secure cross-party support.
Of course, Mr. Mayor, the elephant in the room is that we’re putting up the Council Tax – something I’m always loath to do. But we’ve listened to residents and they’ve been clear – they’ll stomach an increase, if they feel they’re getting bang for their buck. And what did we get for the tax hike the party opposite imposed last year? Let’s be honest, folks. We’re sitting in it!
When we came into Administration, the Conservative Party said we’d listen, and we said we’d be a ‘Doing Administration’. Well, this is a ‘Doing Budget’! The budget last year talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk. Full of one-off electoral bribes – only funded for a year, so that we’d have to cut them.
Well, we haven’t cut them! Things introduced in their budget or by their committees as one-off gimmicks – pride teams, enforcement, hot meals at the George Hurd – we’ve sought to fund for the long-term. That’s the responsible political choice to provide value for money, not vanity projects for councillors.
Mr. Mayor, I’ll vote for this budget. It’s a budget that does the business for my residents in Billericay East and for all the residents in every part of the Borough.”