Kirklees Council leader pledges to back business
Mar 2 2010 by Henryk Zientek, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
KIRKLEES Council means business when it comes to supporting the district’s economy, says leader Clr Mehboob Khan.
Now the authority has pledged a further £3m to turn its “recession fund” into a “recovery fun” and continue helping local firms to keep people in jobs.
Kirklees Council has helped mitigate the worst effects of the downturn and protect jobs with a three-year £3m “recession fund.
Among the initiatives, the council has set up a Sell to Kirklees website for firms to register and tender for council contracts for the first time; linked up with Yorkshire Forward and Business Link to help manufacturers cut through red tape; and hosted two high-profile meetings between local business leaders and regional minister Rosie Winterton.
Other initiatives include a Huddersfield Loan Fund offering low-interest finance for job creation; investment in council-owned business and enterprise centres to “incubate” new businesses; and the creation of a land and property bulletin to pinpoint development sites to would-be investors.
Kirklees was also the first authority to provide a business rate relief scheme for smaller manufacturers, which is calculated to have helped secure about 200 jobs. The council has spent £285,000 on rates relief.
And a pledge to pay all its invoices within 10 working days is also helping the council’s suppliers with their cash flow.
Clr Khan said: “We have kept the central recession fund going – which is now our recovery fund. We have budgeted for a further £3m over the next three years. We are not going to take our foot off the accelerator.”
Clr Khan said the district had distinct advantages in the wake of the recession – including the resources of Huddersfield University with its 26,000 students; plans for an £85m investment in a new campus at Chapel Hill for Kirklees College; and the town’s world-renowned media centre..
And Kirklees was ideally placed to get spin-off benefits from the growth of neighbouring cities Leeds and Manchester.
The district was one of the most important centres in the UK for manufacturing and for internet-based businesses, claimed Clr Khan, adding: “We have a wealth of talent in the business sector and we aim to create an environment for enterprise.”
Through Leeds City Region, the council aims to improve transport links at key points, including Leeds Road, Cooper Bridge while a Huddersfield Gateways scheme aims to improve traffic flow on the ring road.
Kirklees also wants to see a high-speed rail link between Manchester, Huddersfield and Leeds.
Clr Khan said the future of town centres was a major concern for councils as shopping patterns changed. “We have to make town centres much more attractive and secure places for people to visit,” he said.
Clr Khan said the controversial revamp of St George’s Square had provided a “wow factor” for visitors to the town while events such as the Festival of Lights had encouraged people to visit the town centre in the evening and sample its restaurants as well as shops.
Improving St Peter’s Gardens and efforts to seek a site for a “high quality” children’s play area were also on the agenda – to make the town centre a “day out” destination.
Clr Khan said the council was working with representatives of organisations such as the university, Kirklees College, the Media Centre and Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd on a Huddersfield Futures group to plot the course for the town over the next 10 years.
One issue was how to “brand” Huddersfield and market it as a vibrant and dynamic town with a proud history and a bright future.