“Look at this, such a waste, but it’s a perfect spot for a small business hub, or even the council offices.” Richard Scase pointed to the sad-looking, boarded up site of Nasons in Canterbury High Street. Once the flagship department store of the cathedral city, the shop like so many others in the area has ceased trading. A victim of changing consumer habits, the growth of out-of-town retail centres and of course internet shopping.
Mr Scase is Emeritus Professor at the University of Kent. For the past 20 years he has worked with governments, NGO’s and private sector organisations, developing strategies for business formation and growth. In other words he’s an expert. Someone to be taken notice of. Someone who knows what he is talking about.
And in his opinion only a Labour-controlled local council can stop the rot and reverse the decline. “In an internet world, national and global companies are moving their business operations online,” he said. “This means local economies and jobs are vulnerable.”
The passion for enterprise is unmistakable as Mr Scase speaks. “Canterbury must develop a sustainable local economy for the future. There is the need for local entrepreneurship with businesses owned and controlled by local people. Only in this way can secure and well-paid jobs be created. Today the City’s universities produce highly trained men and women who leave the City after graduation. We need to get them to stay. The council must take the lead here.”
He suggests that a Labour council could create a local enterprise board. This could be funded and run by the local authority with the aim of promoting and investing in new local businesses.
“The role of council is to create the first point of access. It doesn’t need to be too expensive, but imagine the boost if just six months of working capital could be available to enterprise start ups. Just give people some premises and a bit of funding and watch them fly.”
For all this to happen there needs to be community leadership. A Labour council would set up that enterprise board and back new business ventures. Following the lead of many other towns and cities it would establish an innovation and enterprise hub in the centre of the city, creating a cluster of high growth, job creating small firms. It would call upon the expertise and talents of local mentors to help young men and women to set-up sustainable businesses, giving them back control and security.”
Mr Scase points to the great location of Canterbury. “It’s less than an hour to London and the quality of life here is so much better. Great countryside and beaches nearby, culture and house prices are much lower. What’s not to like?”
The most important thing, Mr Scase believes, is good leadership. “We need a council that engages the community, that helps our young people to develop their skills and that fosters a wealth-creating local economy.”
Canterbury and Whitstable Labour Party is committed to halting the spiral of decline, creating opportunities and developing the knowledge economy in the Canterbury district. Only with a Labour council can the full potential of the creativity, imagination and skills of residents be realised.