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02 April 2012

FSB: Concerted council action could hold key to local recovery

Reference number: SPUPR0204

Co-ordinated support for local economic growth across departments must become a key priority for all of Scotland''s councils, says the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).  


Launching its local government manifesto ahead of the May 3 polls, the small business lobby group makes the case for councils to redouble efforts across divisions to boost local economies and support jobs.


Entitled, "Taking centre stage: the role of local government in Scotland's economic recovery", the manifesto makes it clear that councils can't transform their local economies single-handedly, but local businesses do expect them to do all they can to support business growth.


Andy Willox OBE, the FSB's Scottish Policy Convenor, said:  


"The recovery is everyone's business.  We must see all parts of all of our councils consider their role in driving growth.  Every department should be signed up to that goal, thinking about how their behaviour is impacting on local businesses and how they could improve.


"Local government is going to face some tough times over the next few years.  But things will only get worse if we don't get local economies moving again.


"In practice, this means the procurement department really understanding how taxpayers' money is spent locally.  It means cross-department consistency in regulation.  It means getting planning moving and reasonable, proportional local fees.  In the short term, we need see our local authority leaders, both members and officers, coming up with and driving local recovery plans which understand the importance of local growth."


Other recommendations from the publication include a reiteration of the organisation's previous call for councils to revamp their approach to local regulation; a call for them to use public procurement spend more effectively to develop local economies; and a recommendation to tackle youth unemployment by placing greater emphasis on creating jobs in local businesses. 


Further, the FSB sets out a number of steps which local authorities can take to help turn around Scotland's town centres and high streets.  It also pushes for planning reform which would see small businesses' small scale applications processed more efficiently.  


The FSB, which has 20,000 members in Scotland and over 200,000 across the UK, will also be holding a small number of events in the run up to the May elections.   


The FSB points out that 90,490 businesses in Scotland have at least one but fewer than 50 employees and these businesses employ 557,810 people in Scotland.  They also point out businesses with fewer than 50 employees account for 98% of all Scottish businesses.