Steps taken boost to local retail sector outlined

Liberal Democrat-run Kingston Council has outlined the serious programme of action it has taken to help local businesses, especially in the retail sector, during the continued recessionary climate.

Last month, Kingston’s Lead Member for Economic Development, Cllr Simon James, presented a report to the Council’s Executive on the borough’s dedicated programme of ‘response to the recession’: a series of local initiatives targeted at keeping our high streets vibrant and local people in employment.

 “Retail is one of the most important sectors for employment and income generation in Kingston upon Thames, yet this sector is at particular risk in the country’s continued recession. Consumer confidence may also struggle next year, even as our economy recovers.

“We took the decision to commit to a bespoke local response focused on keeping local businesses buoyant, town centres vibrant, and employees in their jobs. We have also been providing active support for residents who are unemployed or at risk of redundancy.”

Commenting on the FSB report, Cllr Simon James who is the borough’s Lead Member for Economic Development said: “I believe Kingston is seeing the benefits of the Council’s response to the recession agenda. At 3.4% unemployment in the borough is well below the national, and even London, average. Despite the Government admitting that Britain’s retail sector has been particularly badly hit in the credit crunch, the number of people visiting Kingston Town Centre actually increased by an impressive 3.9% in 2009.”

In a letter to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the Kingston Council Leader detailed the action which the local authority has taken in the critical Christmas and New Year shopping period.

To encourage residents and out of borough residents into the prestigious shopping district of Kingston town centre, seasonal-specific initiatives included working with the Business Improvement District, Kingston Chamber of Commerce and others to run a ‘park and ride’ service.

We also supported Kingston First (the brand name of Kingston’s expanded BID), in making improvements to the street scene: putting up Christmas decorations and running schemes which tackle crime and anti-social behaviour – making the already popular town centre more attractive to shoppers.

Executive Member Cllr Simon James is also the borough’s ‘retail champion’: the health of local shops are prioritised within his economic development brief. Cllr James wrote to the Communities Secretary this month querying the methodology of the Government’s recent ‘Real Help Now’ staunch of funding. He has requested that further financial help should be targeted at retail businesses which have felt shocks in this year’s turnover.

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