Waverley Council released their economic strategy document for consultation in June. Its a very positive step forward for the council and complements their support for the BIG Awards and the Business Improvement District Initiative.

Waverley’s Economic Vision for the Borough is:

A great place for local businesses to grow and flourish where our communities have access to local employment and where everyone shares in the economic prosperity.

You can download and read the full strategy here.

If you are interested in facts and figures about businesses in Waverley there is quite a lot of information here.

The first part of our response to the strategy is:

We think the council have picked six good themes to focus on:

  • Sustainable business and employment growth – which we need in order to fund and grow the local environment;
  • High quality business and employment support – links closely with the above;
  • Healthy town and village centres – big changes are needed to keep our town centres lively and viable;
  • A successful visitor economy that’s right for Waverley – encouraging outsiders to visit, enjoy and contribute to our local economy makes good sense;
  • A great place for local higher educational institutions and their students – we need to ensure that we build a culture of continuous improvement and education; and
  • Supporting the right housing developments in the local community – as more home are added to our locale, we need to ensure that all the necessary supporting services are developed in consort.

Targets – some of the targets in the plan are great, for example “place 100 apprentices locally each year of the levy” and “a 90% occupancy rate at the council’s investment premises within the first year”. But many targets are not outputs but more activities. It would be helpful to see more SMART targets (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely). As an example, there is an item to achieve “More local businesses awarded council contracts” – this could be quantified with a percentage of contracts and by when – we appreciate this not simple, but it is something that could be worked on.

Internal Coordination – It appears to us that the council is not as internally well-coordinated as it could be – room for improvement. We suggest a programme to ensure a joined up council would benefit the plans’ execution.

Conflict of interest with council provided services – There a few places in the plan which focus is primarily on Council provided services, for example Council provided business premises and your in-house training provider. We suggest that the focus should be on the outcome and then articulate how the council along with other providers can meet the need. For example – Haslemere Chamber of Commerce provide cost effective business accommodation for startups – so this should be seen alongside the Council’s own activities. There are a number of training providers in the Borough – what action is needed to provide training / apprenticeships – not exclusively what the council’s own training department can do.

Engage the local Chambers of Commerce – You identify the local chambers as an “Economic Strength” but we don’t see much in the way of how that strength can be utilised. We could do a lot more, for example, to promote the Council’s business services through the Chamber’s website. Currently the council’s website is sort of “swamped” by the volume of residential services and it is difficult to find the business services even if that is what one is looking for. We would be pleased to discuss other ways we could engage and of course appreciate the joint efforts for the BIG Awards and BID.

Car parking is an emotive issue and we are pleased to see this as an action item in its own right. The “Grimsley Review, an alternative future for the high street” does bring out the availability of sufficient parking capacity at an acceptable price as a key factor in making town centres attractive. We do consider that Waverley Council is torn by the need for car parking revenue versus parking as a necessary service.  We suggest the car parking study initially focus on the needs of the town and its occupants and then factor in the revenue implication for the council. We may need to adopt some innovative funding measures to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.