Over fifty people attended the recent bestofhaverhill event at Days Inn, Haverhill. Representatives from local businesses and charities were keen to hear what guest speaker Matthew Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, had to say in his annual review with thebestofhaverhill.
Describing the town as “going places”, Matthew commented on the enthusiasm for improvement and taking opportunities and the strong community spirit, that was present in Haverhill, which made it a pleasure to represent.
Matthew talked about some of the developments in the town over the past twelve months. Haverhill is one of only ten towns in the country who are piloting the government’s community budget scheme. This new approach to local government spending involves the three councils, county, borough and town, pooling their funding to ensure the money is spent more effectively and duplication of services is removed. Haverhill is the only town in the country to include the town council in this process. The pilot is being administered by the board of One Haverhill. One Haverhill was formed to bring together all the stakeholders in the town with the aim of improving the quality of life for the people of Haverhill.
A further development has been the introduction of Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs). Haverhill falls within the area for both the Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough LEP and the New Anglia LEP and has the opportunity to benefit from the funding and resources, available through these organisations, for driving business growth.
Matthew went on to praise Samuel Ward Academy and Castle Manor Business & Enterprise College, who are in the process of becoming an Academy. Praising the schools for their outstanding Ofsted reports he said this could only be good news for the future of the town.
The continuing debate over the pedestrianisation of the High Street, the delays to the Haverhill Research Park due to archaeological finds and the continuing problems with the A1307 are all issues that Matthew is aware of and involved with.
At a national level Matthew explained that a good deal of action had already been taken to make life easier for businesses wanting to grow and employ more people. The government’s plan for dealing with the deficit was on track but only 15% of the way through, so whilst it was under control there is still a long way to go. Encouraging enterprise, reducing corporation tax, making it easier to get planning permission and improving the road infrastructure are all designed to move the country forward.
Matthew spoke about the emerging economies of China, Brazil and India and the rise of the middle classes in these countries who were eager for British goods. Whilst these markets may be challenging to break into, the opportunities they offer are vast and the government is working to support businesses exporting to the new markets.
Local businesses were given the opportunity to ask questions and to tell Matthew what they need to create jobs and business growth. A wide range of questions, reflecting the diversity of the organisations represented, were asked.
Local accountant Paul Donno, from Jacobs Allen, raised his concerns about the availability of Superfast Broadband for Haverhill businesses. Whilst residents would receive the service, the density of businesses in the town made it commercially unviable for BT to provide. Matthew is aware of this issue and explained that funding has been made available to support the provision of broadband in rural areas and he is insisting that some of this funding be directed to areas that need the investment, like Haverhill.
Richard Woodwards, an independent financial advisor from Foster Denovo, asked for an update on care home fees. Matthew agreed that long term care is not well provided for in the UK. He said the Dilnot Report into the provision of long term care was the first step towards addressing the problem but although the government is working on the issue it may not be resolved in this term but hoped it would be the next term, regardless of who was in power.
Other issues raised include: funding for small businesses and the high rate of interest being offered by organisations willing to lend; the difficulty experienced by people trying to get back into work who wanted to retrain but could not afford the investment in the training; the way the government are treating charities; funding for a viability study into the Haverhill rail link; the closure of the Crown Health Centre and the issue of fuel prices in the town.
Elaine Carr, owner of thebestofhaverhill comments, “This was an excellent meeting, very lively and well attended. Matthew is always keen to hear about the issues local businesses face and I think he really does work hard to try and get them resolved. He is a very popular and engaging speaker and I’m delighted that he took the time out of his busy schedule to be with us. I’m hoping that we can entice him back again next year!”
Photograph courtesy of David Doughty from The Gallery