As part of its new Small Business Engagement Accord, the FSB wants local authorities to sign up to 14 "Accord Principles", encouraging greater consultation between business and community leaders. The campaign is the next step of the FSB’s Keep Trade Local project, which aims to preserve local services and networks such as pubs, post offices and banks to help small businesses survive.
“During this recession, it’s crucial that local authorities seek the views of small businesses and listen to their needs, so that they can provide them with the support they need to get through these tough times," comments John Walker, FSB policy chairman. "In every area where a local authority has signed the Accord, small businesses will be able to put their views and concerns directly to decision-makers."
Canterbury was the first city council to sign on the dotted line.
But will this new scheme go far enough?
"As an entrepreneur, I don’t actually think the council can do a great deal," says Rik Hellewell, founder of professional oven-valeting firm Ovenu. "But there is definitely a place for local authorites to reconsider the rates on factories, shops, warehousing and other business premises. If the government really wants to help businesses and is serious about this pledge, it should cut business rates for a period and help entrepreneurs free up capital. That would make a real difference."
Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers, reckons local councils will need to change their attitude if this scheme is going to work: "In the past, local authorities have been a bit ‘closed shop’ to many business people," he says. "If you knew the right people and shook the right hands, you had a chance of being noticed. But they certainly didn’t come looking for your opinions and ideas.
"Local councils should be talking to real people who are at the coal face of this current economic situation. We should share ideas – we all need to start drinking out of the same teapot. City Hall is just across the Thames from Pimlico Plumbers, so if Boris Johnson needs a hand, all he’s got to do is pick up the phone and I’ll be over!"Related articles:Oven-valeting firm cleans up