Saturday, May 21, 2011

Newham Council AGM: Royal Docks Enterprise Zone

 At the Newham Council AGM on Thursday in the Old Town Hall in Stratford, Councillors Christie, Hussain and Robinson gave formal presentations. Cllr Forhad Hussain spoke about the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone.

"Good Evening, I want to talk to you tonight about the future plan to implement an Enterprise Zone within the Royal Docks in Newham and the potential benefits for both Businesses and our Newham residents.

As an entrepreneur myself I have a passion for business and have been involved in a number of startup businesses in recent years. So, I understand the importance of business support from government and also understand the vital role that businesses should play within their surrounding communities such as contributing to the local economy, community cohesion and local job creation.

So what is the Enterprise Zone in Royal Docks? During the Budget announcement, in March this year, the Government announced that they were going to create 21 Enterprise Zones around the UK to help generate Business development.

Following the budget announcement and lobbying from Newham Council, The Royal Docks was awarded Enterprise zone status which covers a 125 Hectare area which includes the area around the docks, Custom House and Silvertown. This Enterprise Zone will be led by the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority, working closely with Newham Council.

Thousands of jobs are expected to be created by this Enterprise Zone which will provide a significant boost to the regeneration plans to transform the Royal Docks into a brand new district to live, work and invest in. Businesses will be encouraged to start-up and develop by enticing them with various incentives.

What are these incentives? The first major benefit is that Businesses will have the opportunity to claim Business rate discounts worth up to £275,000 over a five year period. Revenue from Business rates within the Enterprise Zone will be retained and controlled by the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority and will re-invested in promoting economic growth elsewhere in Greater London.

This business rate discount incentive will be a huge benefit for start up businesses. However as a local authority we need to ensure we negotiate with the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority that the majority of revenue from the business rates collated from the Royal Docks Enterprise zone is to be reinvested back in Newham.

The second major incentive to incoming businesses is that the Government and local authority will relax planning laws and take a radical and simplified planning approach in the enterprise zone. This will allow Businesses to expand and develop more quickly, easily and with little bureaucracy.  This incentive will be great for rapid business expansion and development but as a local authority we need to be careful that we maintain our influence on the way OUR Royal Docks is regenerated.

So how do our Newham Residents benefit from the Enterprise Zone? As businesses in the enterprise zone receive incentives, I feel it is fair to ask these businesses to give something back to Newham; Incoming businesses need to work with initiatives like the ‘Workplace’ and help create jobs for local Newham residents. We need to influence incoming businesses to prioritise jobs to our long term Newham residents and especially our younger people and the long term unemployed.

Incoming Businesses in the zone should also be expected to support and develop long lasting relationships with other Newham organisations and Community groups. These businesses should be offering skills, training & work opportunities to our students, getting involved in community initiatives/events and help to promote Newham as a great place to do business and invest in.  

I believe creating local jobs and Community Cohesion programmes should be paramount within incoming businesses and should be set as required criteria before being accepted in the Royal Docks Enterprise zone. This will definitely ensure our Newham residents benefit in different ways from the local enterprise zone. So, what do we need to do to make Enterprise zones work in Newham?

Various think tanks have identified that the success of enterprise zones such as the one implemented in the Canary Wharf is down to investment in the regeneration of infrastructure. Therefore I feel as a local authority we need to ensure that the correct infrastructure is in place within the Royal Docks enterprise zone and that we invest in local transport links (developing effective Bus, cycle and walking routes), leisure opportunities (especially outside working hours) and in housing (with the right balance of affordable homes). For this infrastructure setup we need vital investment and support from the private sector and the Government.

To summarise; The Enterprise zone is to be introduced in April 2012 and there is ongoing further consultation between the council, Mayor of London, the coalition Government and interested businesses.   As a local authority we need to ensure we maintain our influence on the development and regeneration of the Royal Docks and make sure that jobs are created for OUR Newham residents and ensure their interests are prioritized. 

I sincerely believe The Enterprise Zone in the Royal Docks is a Fantastic opportunity to encourage new businesses into Newham, especially with the arrival of international businesses such as Siemens (in the Royal Docks) and Westfield (In Stratford). I am confident that the Enterprise zone will regenerate and revive the Royal Docks, Create economic growth within the borough and will create a world class business & tourist legacy that we can ALL be proud of".

UPDATE: the speech is now online here with those by the Mayor, Cllr Christie and Cllr Robinson.