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More business rates to be kept local and pay for gigabit broadband

A successful bid to keep more business rates in West Sussex, supported by Crawley Borough Council, will enable residents and businesses to access gigabit broadband.

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The bid, to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to keep 75 per cent of business rates collected in West Sussex – instead of the current 50 per cent – was one of 15 successful applications out of 35 nationwide. This means that there will be an additional £19.1m retained in the county annually from 2019/20. However, this will be spent on improving digital infrastructure as we are unable to use it to help with Crawley Borough Council’s financial challenges.

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council, said:

“This is good news for the digital infrastructure of the county and, once complete, the ‘spine’ will enable residents and businesses to connect to a full fibre network.

“Crawley has the biggest economy in the county and must benefit from this successful bid. However, this money is not extra for individual local authorities and will have very little impact on our finances, which are getting more challenging every year. Much is made of announcements like this but it will have no impact whatsoever on council finance or the services we provide.”

A digital ‘spine’ will be created alongside railway lines, to avoid digging up roads. A full fibre network will be laid from which residents and businesses can access gigabit broadband.

The spine will accelerate investment in and deployment of further new digital infrastructure by reducing barriers to investment in full fibre access networks and new wireless technologies.

The network will run along the Arun Valley railway line, from Ford to Three Bridges, the Brighton Mainline from Three Bridges to Brighton, and a coastal route from Brighton to Ford.

Crawley is the economic powerhouse of West Sussex. The town occupies just two per cent of the land but collects around 35 per cent of the county’s business rates. The town generates more than £120m in business rates each year but keeps only £6m; 10 per cent goes to West Sussex County Council and the rest currently goes to central government for redistribution.

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Cllr Brian Quinn and Crawley Mayor champion Broadfield Barton

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It is a welcome sight seeing stores opening across the town again, and none more so than in Broadfield Barton where the towns Mayor and Cllr Guidera met up with Broadfield Cllr Brian Quinn to champion the area.

Speaking about the visit Mayor Guidera said:

“I was delighted to be hosted today by almost certainly the most well-known councillor in Crawley, Broadfield Cllr Brian Quinn, for a tour of the local small businesses and charity shops at Broadfield Barton. Brian knew everybody (as I expected!) and it was a really enjoyable afternoon spent meeting the people who run the community shops that serve the residents of Broadfield so well.

One older resident stopped us and spoke about how one of the shops had been so helpful during the lockdown, going to great lengths to be able to provide fresh produce that, as we know was running out everywhere back then, so the community had what it needed over the past few, very difficult months. The friendly staff of the Santa Maria cafe, rightly proud of their fabulous Madeiran cooking, were so welcoming and having eaten there many times before I can say if you haven’t been there yet you are missing out!

They have plenty of outdoor seating too! The last place we visited was the newsagents, which is actually a fully stocked convenience store! Again, so welcoming with a great selection, even an American sweets and drinks area! Of course it’s important to mention both the relate charity shop and St Vincent’s do both raise money to serve the local community in their different capacities comma please remember them when you are done eating stuff if you live nearer to them they are very grateful for any support you offer in terms of bric-a-brac donations and clothing.

So, thank you Cllr Quinn, and thank you to all of the people who were so friendly and welcoming today, including the many residents who stopped us for photographs!”

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