By Councillor Dave Wilson / Jobs / 0 Comments

If our communities and businesses are to recover quickly once the Covid pandemic recedes and life resumes, 14 months of lockdown damage needs to be repaired as quickly as we can. 

Labour believes that our City Council has a key role to play in enabling this through community groups and local businesses, and we are proposing to spend almost half a million pounds of money to do that.

The Conservatives’ Council budget proposals for 2021/22 do nothing to provide such much needed support. So Labour Councillors have created an opportunity to provide funds to rebuild our communities and High Streets.

We recognise that it will take more than good wishes to help our District recover from Covid. We want to take positive steps to support our businesses in the district’s high streets through serious measures to encourage the return of visitors, and to support our community groups in making improvements for our residents. So our budget proposals provide residents and businesses with a platform and confidence to make 2022 a year of growth.

There are three specific elements to Labour’s proposals:

  • £50,000 extra for parking discounts and incentives, bringing the total to £100,000
  • £100,000 extra in RISE grants
  • £100,000 new funding to aid the recovery of high street retail and catering businesses

In addition, £204,000 more is earmarked for further support if possible.

Labour believes all these steps are not merely beneficial but are essential if our high streets and communities are going to be helped to recover from this year of lockdowns and crisis.

How do we propose to do this? By preparing to use additional parking income and applying it where it can do most good.

Where is the money coming from? The Conservative budget assumes that parking income will fall by 10% (just over £1 million) compared to2019/20. Although that is in line with the catastrophic 9.9% collapse in GDP that the Government has overseen in 2020, Labour believe it is unnecessarily pessimistic.

Economic forecasts are now consistent in predicting a strong economic bounce back, with growth of 4.2% in 2021.  As a major regional hub for retail and leisure, and with two vibrant seaside towns, our District is well placed to benefit from the predicted summer surge in UK-based tourism and pent up consumer demand which supports that analysis. An extra 4.2% in parking income would result in £454,000 additional income above that contained in the Conservatives’ budget.

Labour Councillors believe that money needs to spent early on in the recovery if it is to have the maximum effect.

We have shown how we would use that. But this pandemic has been unpredictable, as has the Government’s response to it, so we remain cautious, and we have proposed two prudent measures to ensure that the budget is balanced: to not spend anything until we know that the rise in parking income is real; and to not commit almost half the extra money until it has come into the Council. In short: there is nothing profligate about this proposal. The risk of an income shortfall is clearly managed, the spending is dependent on economic recovery, and the benefits are clear.

In 4 of the past 5 years the Council has significantly underspent its budget. If we want to stimulate the recovery locally, it would be economic insanity to underspend in this year of all years.

In summary: we know this is a difficult year, with a high degree of uncertainty made worse by inadequate central Government compensation for the costs this Council has incurred and the losses it has suffered. But we must ensure that in the immediate recovery period we invest to secure the future of our businesses and our communities. That’s what Labour’s  proposal delivers.

 

By Canterbury Labour Group / Jobs / / 0 Comments

Over the last eight years, our communities have been destroyed by austerity. We have seen the closure of libraries, of youth centres and of other community spaces. Indeed, it has also led to the reduction of our independent businesses as a result of high business rates and consumers with less money to spend in their pockets. This is why a Labour local authority would prioritise communities and support Community Interest Companies (CICs) across the district.

Community Interest Companies are social enterprises which uses their profits for a public good. A perfect example of this is the Umbrella Cafe in Whitstable, a community cafe that works with Canterbury College to support young people in gaining the skills necessary for employment. It also provides a space for the Special Needs Advisory and Activities Project to give support to parents. Lily’s Bistro, on Palace Street in Canterbury, is also a similar example. The family-owned Bistro offers work experience to homeless people, people with mental health issues and people with disabilities. That notwithstanding, it also uses ingredients which are thrown out by supermarkets because of their sell by dates, but that are still within their best before dates. These two CICs’ act in the interest of the wider community –  something which should so obviously be supported by the local authority.

The social benefit of organisations like this are revitalising our communities in the face of the harshest cuts to local amenities. This is why a Labour council will bring about the necessary measures to support these important local businesses. As it becomes more and more common for independent businesses to shut their doors only to replaced by big businesses, like supermarkets and betting shops, it is clear that this has opened the necessity for businesses which are greater tied to the local communities they are situated in; businesses that recognise the needs in communities and work towards bringing about some social good. A Canterbury City Council led by the Labour Party will be consistent in its support for these important local businesses.

By Canterbury Labour Group / JobsServices / 0 Comments

The Living Wage campaign is an independent movement of businesses, organisations and people who believe a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. Employers choosing to pay the real Living Wage on a voluntary basis get access to a ethical benchmark for responsible pay, but for council’s it is also a way of ensuring their own staff and contractors in the local economy receive a basic wage, tackling poverty from the bottom up.

Many people in our community find that even though they are working full time on the government’s national living wage of £8.21 an hour they are still struggling to make ends meet. 1 in 5 employees (22%) in the UK earn below the Living Wage. That’s nearly a quarter of the UK workforce and nearly a 1/3 (26%) of working women in the UK. Two thirds of children in poverty have a parent in work.

The real Living Wage is independently calculated every year based on what employees and their families need to get by, including what people need for a decent standard of living and to participate fully in society. This includes things like housing, transport to work and heating, but also enough for a small birthday celebration or a trip to the cinema.

Paying the real Living Wage rate of £9 per hour (£10.55 in London) can mean the difference between employees just about managing and having the funds to deal with those unexpected costs and little extras and can change people’s lives, putting money back into the pockets of the lowest paid workers.

Not only that, but the real Living Wage is good for business. In a 2016 survey of accredited Living Wage employers by Cardiff Business School, 93% employers reported they had benefited from accreditation, 86% reported an enhanced reputation as an employer, 76% of large organisations reported improved recruitment and retention and 78% of large employers reported an increase staff motivation.

Labour committed the council to paying its staff the real living wage in 2010 but we want it to go further an become an Accreditted Real Living Wage council, committing itself to also pay its contractors the same.

The Living Wage campaign enjoys cross-party political support. Councils and Local Authorities across the country from Aberdeen to York have already accredited as Living Wage employers, joining a growing movement of over 5000 businesses and organisations across the UK who believe a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.