Opportunity for local government to unlock the key for business success post Covid-19

Press Releases 29 Mar 2022

Ahead of the local government elections in Wales, we've published our policy recommendations to create thriving local economies.

  • Wales’ biggest business organisation calls for a pro-small business culture in every local authority in Wales
  • FSB Wales calls for the promotion of thriving local towns and high streets 

The past five years have seen substantial political and economic upheaval within Wales’ landscape culminating in one of the most significant challenges in generations for business owners in the guise of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In Wales, small businesses form the backbone of our economy and communities. They create wealth and employment and drive innovation in every corner of our country.

The upcoming 2022 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. 

Our most recent data suggests people in Wales do not believe their town centres and high streets are thriving (97%). In fact, the majority of people we surveyed express negative sentiment about the state of their town centre or high street, with 67% 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.

Over the next five years, political decision makers must look to grow SMEs in Wales, to recover and build economic development into everything we do in Wales for the long term, and on a sustainable basis. 

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. The 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.

We want SMEs to be at the heart of local government’s thinking on the economy, and for the value and drive they bring to local communities.

Local government must work together with prescribed bodies, including both Welsh and UK governments to ensure a joined-up approach to supporting businesses is embedded fully within the recovery.

There are already opportunities through collaborations such as Growth and City Deals that are primely placed and ready to aid growth. We hope to see these partnerships continue develop, as they push thinking on economic development in the regions.

Effective local government has the potential to rejuvenate our local communities.

We want to see ambition across all levels of local government for small businesses, for growing the economy. Our members are stand ready to work with new and returning councillors to that end.”

Meet the author

Gwyneth Sweatman

Gwyneth Sweatman

Head of Communications