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How can Local Councils support a Thriving Economy

July 31, 2018 10:15 PM
By Tony Clayton


Sevenoaks economy depends on London. When the City sneezes we catch cold. House prices fall, local shops and services, suffer, business investment stops. It happened twice in the last 20 years and councils can't change it.

But they can make Sevenoaks a more attractive place to live, work and do business. That can tip the scales persuading people to invest here, to choose to open businesses and to live here. That's why Liberal Democrats first launched Sevenoaks Town Partnership, over 20 years ago to bring business, residents and local authorities together, and promote the town. Now it goes from strength to strength.

Councils must get the basics right, delivering quality services in areas like planning. For businesses, there must be clear guidelines on what is and isn't possible. Too often commercial sites lie empty for decades as developers try their luck for bigger schemes. The result is that the community and economy lose.

We need homes to allow more people who work here to live here. We can't build a successful and sustainable local economy if so many people working locally have to live miles away. That breaks the link between economy and community. To fix it we need affordable family homes to support local workers.

What makes a local economy work is people. Skills and know how make the knowledge based businesses which succeed in Sevenoaks. We can't grow all our own talent, but our education system must make the most of everyone's abilities, and we must encourage apprenticeships to grow local skills.

Finally, local councils can invest to support the local economy - in high speed internet or units for new startups. But speculative property investments don't help. They can drive up rents for local businesses, snuffing out new enterprise and driving existing employers elsewhere.