A budget proposal that would have seen £1 million pledged to help local people start up businesses was turned down at an Eastbourne Borough Council meeting last week.
At the full council meeting on Wednesday, February 18, Cllr Gill Mattock presented the budget proposal for 2015/16, which included a freeze on council tax for a fifth year.
It also promised to maintain grants to voluntary organisations to the tune of £263k, continue to fund the devolved budget scheme, which gives each ward £10k to spend on community projects, and keep up the Economic Regeneration Fund, which has helped Eastbourne weather the recession with projects such as the street market and the Town Team.
However, the Conservative party put forward an amendment to the budget proposal that planned to take £1m from the council’s £4m reserves and use it to help local people with business potential set up in the town. The money would be available in grants or loans, subject to tested business plans and would be ring-fenced to Eastbourne post codes.
‘The People’s Million’ would support budding entrepreneurs, allowing them to grow their business within Eastbourne as opposed to moving it elsewhere in the UK. This would create jobs for local people and help regenerate the town by giving priority to filling existing empty properties.
Cllr Mattock said, “When we took control of this council in 2007, the finances were in a poor state. By careful budgeting, we have slowly built them up and now have a reasonable balance in our reserves.
“We are anticipating further cuts to the government grant we get. Our reserves will stand us in good stead to face those challenges as well as to contribute to our ambitious plans.
“There have been numerous opportunities since last October to submit this amendment. We can’t change a plan that has taken four months to construct in just a half hour discussion without any reference to our finance chief.”
The amendment was refused by 13 votes to ten with one abstention. The original budget proposal for 2015/16 was voted for by 21 votes, with none against and three abstentions.
Cllr Caroline Ansell said, “I was very disappointed, of course. Investing in people is always a good way forward. I know there is huge untapped potential in our town and I know that our future is not going to be built on ‘money under the mattress’. But, ever the optimist, there may be another chance to empower local people.”