One of the County Council’s key priorities is the Economy. We are very fortunate in the South East where the economy is stronger than other parts of the Country but, nevertheless, we are committed to doing what we can to support our existing businesses, encourage new start-ups and promote West Sussex as the place for other companies to come and locate.
Central Government has made the decision to give back to County Councils a proportion of the rates that businesses pay. They see it as an important driver for local authorities such as West Sussex County Council as it puts the emphasis on a Council’s ability to build strong relationships with its business community and take a pro-active approach to working with our local companies – something we feel we’ve always done.
So for me it is important for the County Council to continue to have an ongoing dialogue with businesses, listening to and responding to their needs when making decisions.
This has been the direction of travel for the last three years and I have been heartened by the relationships built. But there is so much more to be done, which is why I attended the Lancing Business Park AGM last Thursday. This is the 2nd largest Business Park in the county where 225 business of various sizes - from a brewery to precision engineering and much in between - are providing more than 2,000 jobs.
Five years ago the Business Park gained BID (Business Improvement District) status which has been a success. I was struck by the diverse range of businesses, small medium enterprises in the park as well as the real business community spirit at the AGM and I was grateful for being made so welcome.
It was good to see the local MP Tim Loughton at the meeting and hear him speak. Tim has organised a jobs fair on the 8th March at Northbrook College which the County Council wholeheartedly supports. And Enterprise Week 2014 is fast approaching, running from March 17 to March 24, which we also support. So we are all helping to build a strong economy.
A recent and successful project of the County Council has been our Be the Business grants. This was a scheme we launched last year where we invited businesses to apply for funding from a pot of money we made available. At the end of last year we provided more than £250,000 in grants to local businesses, including start-ups which of course help to inject new blood into our economy.
It was so successful we have decided to do the same again this year and will be launching that over the coming months.
As well as Be The Business we also have the Social Enterprise Fund which last year saw £273,000 given to 14 local Social Enterprises looking to grow their organisations, as well as some starting new social ventures to benefit their local communities.
The Social Enterprise Fund is also providing a package of support to those successful applicants who received funding. This coming year we have increased our Social Enterprise Fund to £350,000, recognising how successful and valued it has been.
All part of our effort to invest in and support the business community in West Sussex.
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