Opportunity for local government to unlock the key to business success after Covid-19
The last five years have seen substantial political and economic upheaval across the Welsh landscape, culminating in one of the biggest challenges in generations for business owners under the guise of the Covid-19 pandemic in Classes.
In Wales, small businesses are the backbone of our economy and our communities. They create wealth and jobs and drive innovation in every corner of our country.
The upcoming local elections in 2022 provide a timely opportunity to reflect on and respond to the needs of small businesses that are overwhelmingly local, embedded in communities with a real stake in regional outcomes.
Our most recent data suggests that people in Wales don’t believe their town centers and high streets are thriving (97%). In fact, the majority of people we polled expressed negative feelings about the state of their downtown or main street, with 67% describing it as “poor” or “gloomy”. While this poses a considerable challenge to reframing the conversation about the value of cities, there is also a real opportunity for local government to drive new collaboration with business.
Over the next five years, policy makers must seek to grow SMEs in Wales, reclaim and embed economic development into everything we do in Wales on a long term and sustainable basis.
On the occasion of the launch of the manifesto of local authorities of the FSB “Our business is Wales, our business is local” FSB Policy Chairman Ben Francis said:
“The continued impact of Covid-19 cannot be underestimated and businesses face tough new headwinds. However, local elections provide an opportunity to reflect on the support small businesses need to get back on track. foot and face a difficult landscape of rising costs. It is also an opportunity to recalibrate the relationship between small businesses and their local elected officials. We know that local government is responsible for issues that are often closest to the companies.
Over the past two years, local government has played a vital role in supporting businesses during the pandemic, a role that will continue to be crucial for the recovery and beyond. Only local government can help businesses articulate what is locally relevant, providing an important point of contact between business and policy makers.
We consider local government to be essential to the success of every small business in Wales and this importance will increase as the UK Government expands its upgrading program which will require new partnerships between businesses and local decision-makers.
Our manifesto, Our Business is Wales – Our Business is Local, sets out the very real danger that small businesses will face in the years to come, and the opportunities for local authorities to support them, in partnership.
We call for the promotion of thriving high streets, with small independent businesses. We hope to see that councils have learned the lessons of what has worked well during Covid-19, such as reducing the burden of business planning and building a small business-friendly culture across local authorities .
We want SMEs to be at the heart of local governments‘ thinking about the economy, and for the value and dynamism they bring to local communities.
Local government must work with mandated bodies, including the Welsh and UK governments, to ensure a joint approach to business support is fully integrated into the recovery.
There are already opportunities through collaborations such as Growth and City Deals that are ideally placed and poised to drive growth. We hope to see these partnerships develop further, as they encourage reflection on the economic development of the regions.
Effective local government has the potential to rejuvenate our local communities.
We want to see ambition at all levels of local government for small businesses, for growing the economy. Our members are ready to work with new and old councilors to this end.