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  • Writer's pictureTunbridge Wells Alliance

I will always speak up for local business

Matthew Sankey


As one of the Borough Partnerships new innovations has bene to introduce “Champions” – These are sector specific roles design to help the council better understand and connect with a specific issue or sector within our borough.

I was delighted to accept Ben Chapelard’s invitation to become The Small Business Champion. As this is a brand new role, I have been able to make it my own in a very short space of time.

Fundamentally I am the conduit between small local businesses and the local authority and its members/Councillors. It’s a two-way role, I help both officers and members understand specific pressures that small businesses face, helping them to understand dhow any given policy may or may not affect them. I am also hands on communicating with local business if they have any questions council related. My phone number is on the business page of the council website, and I am aways available to help out.

I have always thought there was a disconnect between the council and the business around it and I have worked hard to try to bridge this.

During my first few weeks, It was very obvious that we have a very talented and dedicated Economic Development team at TWBC. These are unsung heroes, working hard in the background to on projects and initiatives to support and grown the local economy in the borough.

I’ll be honest before I became a councillor I had never even heard of this department, so my first task was to try to help this team elevate its profile within the town’s business sectors. It’s not a particularly hard task as the team produce some great results.

I was also concerned that TWBCs website lacked much information for business, it was all in there, but it was difficult to find. We now have a dedicated Business portal on https://tunbridgewells.gov.uk/.

In addition, I was concerned that new businesses, or businesses relocating to the area found it hard to discover their obligations to the local authority, how to access help or who to turn to for guidance. The ED team have this week produced a Business Welcome pack that will be sent directly to any newly registered business in the borough.

Connecting the town to the surrounding village sis also important, and very recently I met with the team who will be designing the cycle path I have bene campaigning for from Langton Green through Rusthall to the commons in Tunbridge Wells. This has been a huge task ensuring that the various stakeholders, politicians and officers are all aligned, work is well underway and I look forward to the results.

What else do I want to work on, The Bus gate or PR2 as we call it in the Town Hall is clearly an issue. Whilst the officers are confident of the legal side of it all, it is obvious that people are still very unhappy with it and we should be concentrating in improving the area for all users. Making it clear to those who should be there and taking advantage of the reduced traffic. Politically this will be a hot potato, but I shall be right on top of it at all times. I started at the last F&F committee meeting where I was able to confirm with the finance officer that the fund raised by the fines could legally be spent on improving that area. The ball is rolling.

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