Securing jobs and a stronger economy

What a summer it has been. It was great to see Blackpool packed with holidaymakers yet again this year as we continue to grow the town as the UK’s number one seaside destination.

This year’s Livewire Festival, with the one and only Will Smith performing, added to our already bumper calendar of events such as the Illuminations Switch-On, Air Show and World Fireworks Championships which helps attract millions of tourists into town.

The events aren’t just for tourists however, half of the free wristbands for Switch-On are allocated to local people and I really hope you and your families were one of the over 100,000 people who enjoyed the Air Show.

Holding events like these and attracting more tourists to Blackpool is so important to our local economy. The tourist trade here provides jobs for 24,000 local people.

In Blackpool, one in three jobs are supported by the tourist trade. Think about your family. If any of them work in a hotel, restaurant, town centre shop or for a company who do business with those types of industries, then their job is being supported by these visitors to the town, while attracting more tourists helps to create even more jobs like those.

And that’s the key word – jobs.

Creating a stronger economy is one of my two main priorities for this council and I am pleased at the sheer scale of jobs that are being created by the current and upcoming investments in the town.

While it is great for Blackpool’s image to see new hotels and office blocks being built, if you look behind the fancy new glass facades there is something much more important happening.

To construct all of these new buildings you need workers to do the hard graft and for the large part the jobs being created for these projects are going to people living in Blackpool. Whether they are self-employed electricians, plumbers, welders or general labourers, that means that the money being invested in these building projects ultimately ends up in the back pockets of local people, helping put food on the table and petrol in your car.

Similarly, when these buildings open, they will create more jobs for receptionists, cleaners, managers, waiters, chefs and many more which can go to Blackpool people.

I can’t lie – all of these construction projects will create some disruption. But when you get stuck behind a digger or are driving on a diversion route, I would encourage you to remember three things.

Firstly, remember your family member or friend whose job is being supported by the tourism economy and secondly, remember the families who can afford to feed their children because mum or dad has found a new job.

Finally, remember that diversions and disruption are for the short term, an improved Blackpool will benefit us all for a long time to come.

Exciting times ahead for Blackpool businesses

As you are reading this latest blog, the council has just recently agreed its budget for another year. Over the last six years, cuts to the grant which the Government gives us to run vital services like social care, bin collections and parks maintenance have reached over £118m (a cumulative impact of £440m), and this year we are having to make another £18.7m worth of reductions or closures to the services that we deliver to you day in, day out.

The continuous reduction in the Government grant is the reality that is being faced by councils all across the country and their approach isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Yes, I expect our grant to be cut by a smaller amount next year, but that is still likely to take £3m-4m away from services which have already been cut to the bone.

So the only way that we can continue to protect those services that you value is to stop relying on central Government grants and start growing our own income.

The best way of doing that is to invest in Blackpool – in our businesses and in our people. As a Council, we have the ability to borrow money at a lower interest rate than others, which can then be lent out to support companies to build, grow and hire.

We are already doing that across Blackpool. Investment in the tramway extension will not only improve the town, but it will increase ticket sales that provide a receipt to the council. Investing in a new hotel in the Talbot Gateway will also improve the town, creating better options for businesses, bringing more local people in to employment and providing another return for the council that can also help protect services. You can read more about the exciting projects starting in Blackpool this year in the latest edition of Your Blackpool.

Actually, the potential for business to boom in Blackpool in the next few years is absolutely huge. A trio of cheap business rates, a prospering enterprise zone and a £100m loan fund means that all the tools are in place for businesses on the Fylde coast to not only compete but to thrive.

From April, changes to business rate valuations will reduce the rates for businesses throughout Blackpool, while extra small business rate relief will allow growing companies to flourish and we expect 3,000 companies to be exempt from business rates completely.

Add the introduction of the Enterprise Zone at Blackpool Airport – which has already created 400 jobs – to the pot and companies relocating to Blackpool could be eligible for up to £275,000 worth of rate relief over a five year period as well as enhanced allowances for them to invest in fixed plant and machinery.

We are also helping businesses to expand and be successful through our own £100m New Loan Fund, which can be given out to companies willing to hire more local employees. That support is already helping businesses to grow. Take Laila’s Fine Foods in Bispham, for example. They have benefitted from two of our loans already, helping them to build a new warehouse, increase their factory to 90,000 square feet, increase their turnover to £36m a year and hire over 300 local people.

These loans will not only help companies to expand, but the repayments will help support our own budget and maintain our services.

For thousands of Blackpool businesses, this trio of business incentives means that they will have more spare money to spend on investing and growing their company. That could equate to thousands of pounds spent on hiring new workers, expanding their offices or investing in new machinery to take on extra work.

For businesses operating in the south of the country where rates and costs are continuing to rise, the benefits of moving to the Fylde coast could be even bigger.

The potential for future investment in Blackpool is exceptionally high. We already have corporations champing at the bit to invest in Blackpool this year and I am really looking forward to seeing the benefits that can bring to local people over the next few years.

This investment, along with our own, is absolutely crucial to create jobs, to boost visitor numbers, boost the local economy, and secure income for future generations.