The voters have spoken
When it comes to elections, the one thing business looks for is certainty. The Chamber of Commerce and Initiative are not aligned to any political party and we are happy to work with whoever the electors decide. But hung Parliaments or local councils where there is no overall control are unwelcome outcomes because you are never sure how the politics will play out and therefore it is difficult to plan properly.
One thing last month’s vote in Bath and North East Somerset did was to provide us with Certainty with a capital “C”. The overwhelming victory for the Liberal Democrats means we can be sure about the direction of travel for the next four years as they are in a very strong position to deliver the manifesto upon which they stood.
The Council has a very broad panorama of issues to deal with, but obviously our focus will be to work with them to continue to develop a healthy and sustainable local economy. We have a good relationship with senior officers, with the leader, Kevin Guy, and we had begun to get to know Mark Roper, the former Cabinet member responsible for Economic Development, who did not stand in the election. It’s excellent news that his brother, Paul, has now taken on the portfolio since he also has vast experience of running a successful local business, giving him a first hand insight into the issues of concern to our members.
Therefore, it will be no surprise to him to hear about what’s on our wish list. Housing supply and its cost continues to be a real problem, making it difficult to attract staff to the area. Very many people have to live miles away from where they work just to be available to afford a home, very often in places without adequate public transport. That results in more commuting with the consequent effects on congestion.
Unfortunately new housing developments are often deeply unpopular with the people who already live in an area proposed for building. Great political courage is called for to do the right thing and there is no better opportunity than for a new administration with a large majority.
Likewise our members are keen to see greater amounts of modern work space both in the centre of Bath but also across North East Somerset. It is true there remains a question mark over how much office space will be required with modern working practices, but there is no doubt that demand for flexible premises will remain high.
Our members have weathered some stormy times in the last few years, but with signs of economic winds quietening and with a settled local political scene we can look to the future with confidence.