Orpington 1st column: A strong voice for Orpington
It’s a pleasure to write my first column for this magazine as your new Member of Parliament. I would like to thank you for placing for your trust in me to represent Orpington and its surrounding villages in Westminster, and for being so welcoming to me and my family.
It’s barely been two months since the election but the change in Westminster is tangible. There is a renewed optimism about the future of our country, a determination to deliver, and laser-focus on the nation’s priorities.
My first few weeks as your Member of Parliament have been dominated by delivering on our election pledges: we got Brexit done; we enshrined in law the largest and longest cash injection into the NHS; and we’ve delivered the largest funding boost to policing across the country.
I have also begun my work to deliver on Orpington’s local priorities – one of which is to ensure that businesses in area are able to thrive. There are four areas which I will be focusing on to deliver for Orpington’s vibrant town centre.
First, I will be lobbying ministers and local government to invest in broadband across Orpington and the villages. Too many residents and businesses struggle to get a strong broadband connection in our area, which means they struggle to compete online and offer shoppers a convenient service.
Second, I will be championing a review of business rates. It’s simply unfair that retailers in Orpington’s town centre are burdened by taxes, while online retailers such as Amazon get off light. It’s important that businesses pay their share for the public services we all enjoy, but we need a fairer system which lifts the disproportionate burden on local retailers.
There is no simple solution, but one possible reform is to shift rates from a flat property value on business premises to a proportional basis on profits. This will enable retailers to invest and cut costs for shoppers. One thing is clear, business rates which are four hundred years old aren’t fit for the modern, online economy.
Third, I would like to find consensus on regenerating the Walnuts Shopping Centreand the area beyond. While I do not have a planning remit as an MP, I would like to help bring together all stakeholders to find a common vision for Orpington’s town centre. I will be meeting with the Areli group to discuss their regeneration plans further.
Finally, I want to see more visible policing in Orpington. It’s not just residents who want the reassurance of more bobbies on the beat, but businesses too. This year London will receive an additional 1,369 police officers thanks to new government funding, and I will be pushing for Orpington to get its fair share. I will also be speaking with the Borough Commander about the creation of a new Town Team to step up policing in the town centre.
I was pleased to meet with Chris and Sharon, who helped to inform this four-point plan. It is reassuring to know that local retailers have such a strong community advocate in the Orpington 1st Business Improvement District. I look forward to working with them to deliver for Orpington’s town centre and businesses across the constituency.
If you would like to follow my activities in Westminster and Orpington, you can sign-up on my website.
Article by Gareth Bacon MP first published by Orpington 1st.