THE topic for this year’s State of the District debate at Arun District Council on Wednesday will be “Open for business? How can we encourage the growth of businesses in Arun?”
The council will also bid farewell to retiring chief executive Ian Sumnall.
It is a good time to assess the performance of our district council.
According to research body Nomis the average gross weekly wage for those working in Arun in 2010 was £399 – the lowest of the seven councils in West Sussex.
This compares to a West Sussex average of £479 (20 per cent higher) and a south east average of £523 (31 per cent higher).
The national average is £500 (25 per cent higher).
Low wage levels create an unacceptably high level of outbound commuting.
Currently, around 37 per cent of the working population leave the district each day to work.
Arun ranks 63rd out of 67 local authorities in south east England when it comes to the ratio of jobs to population aged 16-64.
The 2003 local plan has failed spectacularly to attract employment interest for the Oldlands Farm site at North Bersted, near Bognor.
Perhaps Arun’s councillors should ask why?
There are around 3,500 households on Arun’s housing needs register, individuals and families unable to get a foot on the housing ladder, often trapped by hereditary deprivation, and more than 1,000 of these households are in priority housing need.
In the five years to 2009, Arun had the fastest-growing housing needs register in the entire south east region.
According to Shelter, in Arun it takes 12 times the average wage (£17,888) to purchase the average priced house (£214,953).
The lower the average wage the greater the need for affordable housing is likely to be and, not surprisingly, Arun has a deficit of affordable housing.
Ham, River, Pevensey, Marine and Hotham wards all suffer from serious deprivation – amongst the worst in the south east.
The state of the district is desperate and does not reflect well on our councillors or the retiring chief executive – let us wish incoming chief executive Nigel Lynn good luck and best wishes and hope that his tenure will lead to some fresh thinking.