Government support for local businesses is vital, and Councillors and officers, involved in economic development, from across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were brought together for the annual Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Small Business Friendly Awards.
These Awards identified the best small business friendly initiatives undertaken by the region’s local authorities, which have benefited the county’s small businesses.
The winners were:
Most Innovative ‘Small Business Friendly’ Programme, Project or Campaign
Winchester City Council – for turning the usual conference structure on its head by asking more than 100 participants from local businesses to set the agenda for a business conference on the theme of making Winchester a premier business location.
The event titled ‘Unconference’ led to a second event called ‘Hack Winchester’, which picked up on some of the digital themes identified in the first event.
A number of initiatives were introduced as a result of both activities, including a free public wifi network installed in Winchester city centre and a landing page with marketing and advertising opportunities for local businesses. These online solutions help to increase dwell time, and monitor and identify areas of footfall and ‘hot spots’.
Best All Round Small Business Friendliness
Portsmouth City Council – For their holistic ‘fit for purpose’ approach to small business support. Portsmouth have made huge strides in ensuring that business support is simple and easy to access. Services include a single point of contact for business enquiries by telephone and email as well as a reception desk which ensures that support is visible. Communication with the business community takes place through multiple channels to ensure that business owners can choose what works best for them, be it newsletter, social media or face to face.
A business support programme offering free targeted mentoring through ‘Shaping Portsmouth’ has helped over 115 small businesses, and events throughout the year have included ‘meet the buyer’, Expos, and events focussed on regeneration and the future of Portsmouth. The council has increased both the number of small businesses on their procurement register and the amount of council spend to the local small business community.
Test Valley Borough Council – received a ‘Highly Commended’ Award for the work they have done in providing grants to local businesses; improving skills; providing regulatory support; helping to improve broadband and focus on rural businesses and town centres support.
The awards were introduced by the FSB South Central Lead, Rob Dewing who praised the councils for their commitment to small businesses within their respective areas. Rob said: “These Awards aim to recognise, and publically acknowledge, the significant work undertaken by Local Authorities, in supporting the micro and small business community. FSB sets out to lobby local and national government, but we also realise that we must recognise the work that councils undertake, which in essence, helps our members.”
“Similar to pressures on many businesses, we are aware of financial pressures on councils as well, and will try to acknowledge any organisations that go ‘above and beyond’ what may normally be expected in order to ensure that the small business voice is not only heard but acted upon.”
Nicola Bailey, FSB Development Manager for Hampshire, further added: “We hope that the Awards provide a platform for councils to share their successes in promoting and championing local economic development. It provides us with an excellent opportunity to promote the best examples of good work to all councils across the county, and further afield. This will go some way to hhelp to drive the improvement of local Government delivery and performance to support our local business community. We were delighted that all Councils within Hampshire were represented at the presentation this year, showing their commitment to small businesses. The nominations also show that a great deal of effort is being made, and we look forward to working alongside the councils to keep this momentum going.”
The FSB exists to promote an environment in which small businesses can survive and thrive, and our 6,500 members within Hampshire and the Isle of Wight look to local government to help create such an environment. It is clear that many Local Authorities are trying to help stimulate, and provide an impetus to the British economy, through championing the needs of the small business community.