Business leaders call on local government to do more to support towns ahead of next month’s elections

By Dylan Davies   |   News editor   |
Friday 1st April 2022 5:43 am
@dylandavies1
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Great Darkgate Street in Aberystwyth
Great Darkgate Street in Aberystwyth (Cambrian News )

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A GROUP of Welsh business leaders is calling on local government to unlock the key for success across the country post-Covid.

FSB Cymru is calling for the promotion of thriving local towns and high streets following what they call ‘five years of substantial political and economic upheaval’ in Wales.

FSB say that small businesses form the backbone of our economy and communities, creating wealth and employment and driving innovation.

In a statement, the group say this May’s local elections present a timely opportunity to reflect and meet the needs of the small businesses that are overwhelmingly local, embedded in communities with a real stake in regional outcomes.

Their most recent data suggests people in Wales do not believe their town centres and high streets are thriving (97 per cent).

In fact, the majority of people they surveyed express negative sentiment about the state of their town centre or high street, with 67 per cent describing it as ‘bad’ or ‘bleak.’ While this poses a substantial challenge in re-framing the conversation about the value of towns, there is also a real opportunity for local government to lead new collaboration with businesses.

On the launch of FSB’s local government manifesto, Our Business is Wales - Our Business is Local, FSB policy chair Ben Francis said: “The ongoing impact of Covid-19 cannot be underestimated and businesses face new challenging headwinds.

“However, the local elections provide an opportunity for reflection on the support small businesses need to get back on their feet and face a challenging landscape of rising costs. They also give a chance to re-calibrate the relationship between smaller businesses and their local elected representatives. We know that local government is responsible for issues that are often closest to businesses.

“In the past two years, local government has been essential in supporting businesses through the pandemic, a role that will continue to be crucial for the recovery and beyond. Only local government can help businesses articulate what is relevant locally, providing an important touch point between the economy and political decision makers.

“We see local government as essential to the success of every small business in Wales and this importance will increase as the UK Government develops its Levelling Up agenda which will require new partnerships between business and local decision makers.

“Our manifesto, Our Business is Wales - Our Business is Local, sets out the very real danger facing small businesses in the coming years, as well as the opportunities local authorities have to support them through, in partnership.

“We are calling for the promotion of thriving high streets, with independently owned small businesses. We hope to see that councils have learned the lessons of what worked well during Covid-19, such as lessening the planning burden on businesses and working a pro-small business culture throughout local authorities.”

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