Nick Clegg visits St Albans Chamber of Commerce

County cllr Sandy Walkington

County cllr Sandy Walkington - Credit: Archant

The Deputy Prime Minister told the district’s businesses it was up to them to create jobs and help get the economy booming again at a recent business networking event.

Speaking at Sopwell House Hotel on Friday, Nick Clegg revealed to members of the St Albans Chamber of Commerce that the Government could create a setting or context in which companies could thrive but they needed to be proactive too.

He added that he could see no reason why the future of the St Albans area could not be as bright as any other economy.

Showing he has a sense of humour, the Sheffield Hallum member of parliament shared with the audience: “I’m very excited to be in this hotel as an Arsenal fan.

“I’ve just been told Arsène Wenger lived here for two years. Can I see the blue plaque?”

During his introduction to guests he touched upon a number of topics including the impact of the recession and the need to renew the country’s infrastructure, including new housing.

In response to the latter issue, one chamber member asked the Liberal Democrat leader what he thought was the greater priority between saving the Green Belt and building new housing.

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Mr Clegg said local authorities could do what they have currently been doing and building endless small developments but called this a “hopeless way of doing things”.

He added that they need to make a big decision and expressed his support for garden cities, which provide ample amounts of housing in highly sought after areas.

Mr Clegg then passed on the matter to the leader of the council, Cllr Julian Daly, who said of the district’s situation: “It’s not a housing crisis we’ve got, so much as how we use our housing.”

Cllr Daly said the lack of housing combined with a decrease in the number of people living per household has caused issues.

He also cited the district’s council tax as an issue, as it encouraged people to stay in a big house even if they did not necessarily need such a large property.

Later on in the Q&A session a chamber member asked Mr Clegg about business rates, which have proved a major problem for St Albans independent shops and restaurants, with several having to shut their doors recently.

But in response to this he did not seem to have a clear-cut solution, commenting: “It’s been an issue but so for it hasn’t been a priority.”