A new format for the annual State of the City debate provided an engaged, informed audience with an interactive journey through the key challenges for Brighton & Hove earlier this week, with an overview by the council’s new Leader, Cllr Bill Randall.
Invited to kick off proceedings, Cllr Bill Randall, new Leader of the Green administration, gave an overview of the challenges as he sees them, and how he hopes to begin to address them. His agenda has three key strands – tourism, green issues and tackling inequality – and he gave a brief but strong indication of how his administration intends to proceed. He announced that a significant fund was ring-fenced (in the hundreds of thousands), to tackle issues of poverty and deprivation in the city.
State of the City 2011 attracted a near-capacity audience drawn largely from the business community of Brighton & Hove, along with representatives from the education sector. Questions to the broad-ranging panel concentrated on the business environment and infrastructure, the problems of economic growth and white collar job creation, and a crucial issue, well highlighted by panellist Oliver Asha of Acumen Business Law, that wages in the City are not aligned to the cost of living here. This is an issue that encompasses the high cost of rent and housing, and is likely to become critically important for the demographics of the City in the next few years.
There appeared to be consensus that economic growth means attracting large employers to the City, and that in order to do so it would be necessary to develop more employment land - a position championed by Simon Fanshawe, Chair of the Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership.
Geoff Raw from Brighton & Hove City Council talked about the potential to develop various pockets of land, but explained that it could not be done without private sector finance, and no developer would take it such a project without feeling confident they would achieve a commercial rental of £22-£25 a square foot from it. This is relatively expensive for the small and micro-businesses that make up 86% of the City’s business profile, and without the office stock, the fear is that big companies will not relocate to the City.
The 90 minutes of discussion whizzed by, and it was clear that the audience had much more to say about parking charges, bus routes, road works, and constant disruptions to train services than the time allowed.
The evening was energetically chaired by Roger French of the Brighton & Hove Bus Company, with online polling and constant live Tweeting, and the new format worked well, adding a welcome extra dimension.
To read and download the full press release, written by Dany Louise (www.danylouise.wordpress.com) click on the link below (Microsoft Office Word Doc 97 - 2003, 32KB, 32,268 bytes).
Click here to download
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Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce
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