Local councils across Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull were recognised for their support for small firms as part of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) local authority awards.
At the FSB’s annual ‘Small Business Engagement’ lunch all local councils were asked to make known any project or campaign that promotes and champions local economic development. There were four awards in total which focused on small business friendliness:
• Best ‘Small Business Friendly’ MP
• Best ‘Small Business Friendly’ procurement policy
• Best ‘Small Business Friendly’ Programme or Campaign
• Best all round ‘Small Business Friendliness’
The awards form part of the FSB’s campaigning activity to ensure that at every level of Government, entrepreneurs are viewed as potential wealth, growth and job-creators of the future. Across the region 96% of the 50,000 private sector businesses in Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull are small businesses, so it’s vital that everything is done to enable them to survive and thrive.
The event, held at Warwick Conferences at Warwick University, saw senior decision makers from across the area in a packed room to hear updates on the work the FSB delivers on behalf of small firms. The keynote speaker was Angela Joyce, Chief Executive at Warwickshire College Group who gave an overview of the skills landscape and opportunities for small businesses. Those attending the event also heard from Michael Weedon, chair of the FSB Retail Policy Unit on the challenges facing small businesses on the high street.
Sandra Garlick, FSB Coventry and Warwickshire Area Lead said “As in previous years we were again delighted with the range and strength of applications received and the quality of the projects put forward. The FSB fully believes in partnership working and with budget cuts, diminishing resources, and of course the uncertainty caused by our proposed exit from Europe its important our engagement with the business community and local authorities goes from strength to strength. We feel that through working together we can have a greater impact on making our economy a better place and the local authority awards help to share that best practice”
This year the Best all round small business friendliness award went to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, with Coventry City Council highly commended.
Warwickshire County Council picked up the award for best campaign with Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council winning the award for Best procurement policy. Matt Western MP for Warwick and Leamington won the award for ‘Best Small Business Friendly’ MP.
Sandra added “In Nuneaton’s application the judges were impressed by a change in approach to supply chain contracts which encouraged small businesses to bid for these opportunities. This judges also welcomed the councils procurement toolkit which presents its employees with reminders to think local first and ensure they understand the impact of local procurement upon on the local economy.
Warwickshire County Council award was for its Apprenticeship Levy Small Business Support Programme which sees the council commit an annual fund through its own apprenticeship levy to be shared with small businesses to help fully fund apprenticeship training for small firms. The judges agreed this is a fantastic initiative which can help to remove barriers for small businesses in employing an apprentice, and in some cases help give young people their first step into employment.
As ever the overall small business friendliness award was difficult to judge. Coventry City Council were highly commended for their engagement with the FSB on a range of issues impacting on small businesses including city centre regeneration and transport issues. However the panel awarded Solihull Council for its wide spread support offered to small firms. This included regular engagement with the small business community through business support events and sector specific forums. This activity encouraged and strengthened relationships between small firms and the larger businesses in the region. The Council has also maintained a focus on the retail sector and provided grant support to strengthen supply chains across all sectors which is having a direct impact on the ability of businesses to stimulate innovation and grow.
We will continue to work closely with local authorities on a range of issues to encourage them to develop initiatives and policies that will help small businesses across the area survive and prosper”
Matt Western MP for Warwick and Leamington said “I am delighted to receive this award. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy here in Warwick & Leamington. Government must do everything it can to support them, whether that is through reforming the business rates system, offering business support and expertise, or simply through providing the certainty they are sorely lacking currently. I will continue to provide a voice for small businesses in Parliament”
Cllr Julie Jackson, Leader of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council said “Small businesses are a really important element of our local economy and we work hard to support them. I’m glad that our endeavours have been recognised through these awards. Our proactive work with small businesses helps them to make the most of the opportunities available locally.
We pride ourselves on being a business-friendly borough and strive to encourage local entrepreneurs to grow and stay in the area Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council said “We’re delighted to have received this recognition for the scheme. The county council’s core priorities are to support our most vulnerable people and to help to sustain a vibrant economy in which small businesses play an integral part.
By supporting small businesses to recruit apprentices, we are helping to address the skills gap that can be an obstacle to growth for many of them. But the Apprenticeship Levy programme does more than that. It also can be used to enable a business to take on a supported young person with SEND. We are looking for the programme to create at least 42 new apprenticeship places a year. We hope that this approach can be replicated across the country, helping small enterprises to grow while giving many young people that all important start in the workplace.
Cllr O’Boyle, Coventry’s cabinet member for jobs and regeneration said “Small and medium sized business play a vital role in the economic success of our city and we work hard to make sure they have the support they need to thrive and grow. Lots of local people are employed by small businesses and we are always keen to do what we can to encourage business growth and business start ups. The Federation of Small business is an important partner in this work and together I think we are making a positive difference.”
Cllr Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for the Economy said “The Small Business Friendly Award highlights the importance of building good relationships between the Council and small businesses, as a critical part of our local economy and supporting local communities.
Our Enterprise for Success programme has supported over 800 individuals looking to start their own business and it just one example of the support that we offer. This recognition is testament to our commitment to continue to support businesses of all sizes and it is a great honour to receive this award on behalf of the Council. I would also like to express my thanks to FSB for being such a valued partner”