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As the Rochford & Rayleigh Conservatives continue to bulldoze their great plans through for new Council offices (£3.4m+) and a Council Chamber, neighbouring Conservatives are in Basildon are calling on their (Labour led) administration to “review its spending proposals to take into account the Covid-19 crisis and consider whether money could be better spent to support residents and business.”
It would appear our neighbouring Conservatives in Basildon are more concerned about its local economy than our Council here in the Rochford District, which so far has extended to a few signs and a website (do you know about the website) to support the opening up of businesses. Have the Council learnt nothing over the years with failed schemes such as ‘shop at my local’ and the lack of any credible action from the formation of the ‘Town Team’ – they are not masters of marketing or business. Speaking with businesses the message is clear, the Council simply do not listen. It’s a common theme from both residents and businesses alike. A simple step would be for the Council to carry out a survey (let’s call it market research) – what are the fears and concerns that hold shoppers back and that businesses need to overcome?
What are the pain points for businesses coming out of the lockdown and what are the challenges they face?
Suggestions put forward by minority groups have been (unsurprisingly) ignored as usual. During a meeting of the executive we hear that they are ‘thinking’ about introducing a 20mph speed limit in our High St’s for ‘safety’ – we don’t think speeding is a particular problem in our High Street (do you?) in Rayleigh and who would enforce this proposed speed limit? Last time we checked our Police service was drastically under resourced and the Town Council was having to use taxpayers money to fund private security to keep residents safe!
Residents are looking for practical solutions, like opening the public toilets, having more space to socially distance, being able to ride their bikes safely on our roads so they don’t have to use crowded public transport.
It is widely acknowledged that much of Rayleigh’s economy now relies on a vibrant nightlife and with social distancing in place, restaurants, bars and cafes are going to struggle to accommodate the numbers to make their businesses sustainable. More space is needed and a temporary pedestrianised High Street, may be able to accommodate that need.
Maybe the Council could use it’s hefty reserves to relax the rules on car parking fees so that shoppers who are ‘risking it’, going out and about once more, can get over the fear of receiving a penalty charge notice, all because they’d had to queue at that one in one out retailer and not that they were trying to cheat the Council out of a few quid!
For some local businesses, the lockdown has given them a chance to shine, but without continued and actionable support from the Council(s) perhaps old habits will die hard and our shoppers will flee to neighbouring shopping areas such as the retail parks and shopping centres once again?
Whatever happens next, with the effects of a recession staring us squarely in the face, now is not the time to dither, but the time to act decisively for this is the livelihoods of many in our community and we can’t afford to fail them.