Business leaders meet

BUSINESS leaders have backed calls for more investment in East Devon, following a wide ranging speech by guest, MP Hugo Swire.

Mr Swire addressed a well attended meeting of the East Devon Business Forum and began by describing the expenses fiasco as 'deeply regrettable' and that he understood the anger people felt.

He expressed concern about the economic slowdown and quoted recent reports from organisations like the International Monetary Fund who have questioned some figures from the Treasury.

And he added that nationally the number of people claiming unemployment benefits had jumped by 244,000; the biggest quarterly rise since 1981 bringing unemployment to 2.215 million, the worst figure since 1996, but not as bad as the three million unemployed in the mid-1980s.

He spoke of the challenges facing Exmouth, Sidmouth, Seaton and Honiton and questioned if Cranbrook was ever going to happen.

Mr Swire agreed that Broadband connectivity was extremely important for businesses in East Devon but he also argued that transportation infrastructure was still not adequate to attract companies who wished to move their goods and personnel into the area and around it once here.

He also addressed East Devon District Council's reputation in terms of attracting new businesses and said he believed more could be done.

And he urged the Forum to persuade the Council to set up a new campaign 'East Devon is Open for Business' and he said would be happy to act as an ambassador and approach any companies who the Forum thought might be interested in coming to East Devon.

Graham Brown, Chairman of the East Devon Business Forum, told Mr Swire ""Please be in no doubt about our desire to work with you and the local authorities on improvements to local infrastructure and attracting new investment.

""It is vital that business and enterprise is given the conditions necessary to trade successfully through and beyond the current recession.