Winchester’s local economy to get £400,000 boost

A £400,000 package of support for the Winchester District local economy was announced by Cllr George Beckett, Leader of Winchester City Council last week (Thurs).

The district has been successful in attracting more businesses to the area and the Government have given us a share of the increased business rates as a grant. This resource will be used to specifically support projects directly related to the health of the local economy, businesses and employment. Details of the plan are currently being worked up and will be approved through the normal committee structure.

Cllr Beckett said, “These funds come from business during good times, and it is only proper that they are used to support business now that times have changed.  We are determined to do what we can to maintain the vibrancy of our local economy and our prudent husbandry of these funds in the past allows us to make a significant impact when businesses really need support.”

“I have been in discussion with Cllr Jonathon Glen of HCC, the Executive Member for Skills and Economic Development, and I am taking care to ensure that our initiatives line up with those he is proposing, particularly as regards the independent retail sector in small and medium sized towns, support for the self-employed, small businesses and unemployed senior executives.  These have been discussed with Cllr Glen and other District Leaders at a recently convened meeting of the Senate Economy Action Group.

“I believe this set of proposals will provide best value for our scarce funds and a response to current economic circumstances that is affordable and can be speedily implemented.  These measures are all in addition to the economic development initiatives and services that are currently being provided by the Council.”

Some of the options being looked into at the moment include:

  • Bespoke business training courses: A range of bespoke training courses free to attendees will be delivered in venues throughout the district. 
  • Business rate relief: WCC are looking at schemes to help hardship cases and small businesses rate relief
  • Bishop’s Waltham pocket guide: Both Wickham and Alresford now have their own pocket guide which they find useful in promoting local shops and attractions to both visitors and residents. 
  • Smarter working centres: Hampshire County Council is working towards introducing these.  We would propose subsidising up to 4 such centres in our rural towns, maybe incorporating them in our local offices.  This would be delivered in partnership with HCC and the E-Hampshire partnership.
  • Council payment of invoices within 10 days: This does not cost the council, but should significantly help cash-flow for business.
  • Support for festivals: Several of Winchester’s festivals have made plans to work together to provide a co-ordinated message about Winchester being a ‘City of Festivals’.  The Council would support this initiative with a high quality marketing campaign.
  • Business grants scheme: Around 50 start-up grants of up to £1,000 would be available to any new businesses in the district subject to strict criteria.
  • Creative industries workspace: Affordable workspace for creative industries is hard to find but a currently confidential scheme could shortly become available to help.
  • Support for the important retail sector in Winchester town: Further help to support Winchester’s retailers beyond the programme that is funded by the BID levy.
  • Rural businesses: Supporting local businesses in our villages, particularly where a commercial undertaking also offers a valuable community asset.  Just as we were able to support the shop in West Meon, to keep business at the heart of our rural communities.

These proposals involve one off expenditure funded from the Government Grant the Council received and will therefore have no effect on the revenue budget or Council Tax levels.