doc

COUNCIL chiefs will travel more than 5,000 miles to India to “bat for Basildon” and encourage investment and growth in the town.

Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, and Bala Mahendran, the authority’s chief executive, are jetting off to Delhi on Sunday, November 26, before moving on to Raipur, where a new city is being built that will be home to more than 500,000 people.

Basildon is a member of the European New Towns and Pilot Cities Platform (ENTP) - a network representing new towns and fast growing cities across Europe - and is the only town in Europe to be involved in the visit.

The pair will also fly the flag for Britain and other new towns with David Graham, vice president of capability at Basildon-based defence firm Selex Galileo, and Graham Lewis, director of skills at Basildon’s Prospects College.

The delegation will be sharing their skills and expertise surrounding the creation of Naya Raipur and also hope to develop trade links with India during their visit.

Mr Ball, who is vice president of the ENTP, said Basildon’s business strengths in engineering and manufacturing will lend itself well to the rapid urbanisation and growth in India.

He said: “People don’t realise Basildon is the largest employment centre east of London, there are more than 70,000 jobs here.

“Stuff won’t happen to us, we have to make stuff happen for us. Basildon can’t just survive by allowing things to happen, because of the new town legacy we don’t have historic amounts of money like other boroughs.

“Developing trade links with nations such as India is of major importance and we are keen to drive this agenda and this trip is all part of that.”

The majority of the trip is being funded by Project East with a contribution of about 25 per cent falling to the council that equates to roughly £2,000.

The bosses are aware people may question the trip, but Mr Ball said standing by and doing nothing to encourage growth in Basildon is “not an option”.

“To do nothing would be to only stagnate and we can’t allow Basildon to do that,” he said.

“It’s about creating opportunity to have jobs and prosperity. We need Basildon to have jobs and young people to have access to jobs and skills to support services.”

Mr Mahendran added: “We should be able to put our money where our mouth is.

“It’s not just settling for today, it’s about tomorrow.”

Labour opposition councillor for Pitsea, Gavin Callaghan, said: “I welcome any move to increase investment in Basildon and this is symptomatic of what a lot of councils are doing right now in making these sort of partnerships, especially in an emerging country such as India.

“Some residents may find it difficult to fully appreciate why the chief executive and leader are spending £2,000 when they’re making vast and short-sighted cuts across Pitsea and the wider borough, but if they can justify long-term gains for Basildon I would welcome it.”

The delegation has a back-to-back agenda from Sunday, November 26 to Thursday, December 6, including meetings with the mayor of Raipur and the British Deputy High Commissioner.