Agenda item - Chair's Communications
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12.1 The Chair provided the following communications:
On behalf of the Board, I would like to welcome Sasha Roseneil and Dan Power to their first Board meeting. Sasha joined the University of Sussex as VC at the start of September and will be representing the University on this Board. Since our last meeting the merger of GBMet and Chichester College Group has been completed. The merger sees the Group become the biggest college group in the south east region, providing high quality learning opportunities for more than 25,000 students across seven college campuses, five of which are in the City Region. Dan was appointed as the Group Chief Commercial Officer in August and will be representing the Group going forwards.
The last few weeks have demonstrated that the UK economy is in a fragile state. Rising energy, fuel and food prices has caused the cost-of-living to soar. The recent increases in borrowing rates, including mortgages only add to the financial burden faced by households across Greater Brighton. We know that in Brighton & Hove alone more than 5,000 people need help from the city’s foodbanks and coops every week, including nurses, teaching assistants, care workers and others essential to the effective running of our city region.
The Greater Brighton Local Authorities are doing what they can to help residents. But the £100m cut from LA budgets over the last decade means less money to provide key services such as adult social care, parks, bin collections and libraries. Across the country, councils of all political colours are in dire straits. Talk of Local Authorities having to find further ‘efficiencies’ is concerning. Let us be clear, that means councils across the country will have to consider the services they provide from libraries to toilets to adult social care. This attack on local authorities needs all of us to demand for a proper local government settlement.
In the cost-of-living report before you details our plan for a deep-dive into the city region economy so that we can understand what the challenges are, particularly for businesses. Whilst we wait for that work to be completed we will work with the city’s MP’s to lobby for crucial business support, including:
· Suspension of Covid loan debt repayments for up to two years
· Including reduction of tourism VAT to 5%,
· introducing a dedicated business grant for SMEs
· And an Extension of business rates relief for all SME’s and pubs
Last month an excellent Away Day session was held for Board Members. The purpose of the meeting was to review current priorities and the way the Board is governed, and also talk about the opportunities presented under the Levelling-Up agenda, including devolution. Key messages to come out of the session include:
· Reaffirming that our priorities; building social and environmental resilience, transitioning to net zero, are correct and valid
· That the cost-of-living crisis has rapidly emerged as an urgent priority
· Need for practical steps and next actions relating to the above – the Board needs to be able to make agile decisions and move ahead with real purpose
· The Board needs a clear narrative on what it is trying to achieve that can be transmitted
· Board to continue to explore opportunities presented by Levelling-Up and Devolution
On 6 October 2022 the new Moulsecoomb bridge was fully opened to the public.
The landmark structure, which weighs the same as 15 double decker buses, is designed to help bring together the communities on either side of the Lewes Road, including locals and staff and students of the university's Moulsecoomb campus. It provides an impressive new gateway to the city, whilst at the same time providing a safe high-level crossing which is designed to keep traffic on the Lewes Road moving.
The opening of the bridge marks the fact that the Preston Barracks regeneration programme is nearing completion: a programme of regeneration that started with the opening of Plus X, which this Board championed and helped to win government funding for.