By Claire West

The region’s weather ravaged road network is where most small business owners would like to see more investment, a survey of firms in Greater Manchester and North Cheshire has revealed.

The Federation of Small Businesses quizzed members in the region to see in what key areas SMEs would like to see more money spent by whoever forms the next government. In total, 37% of respondents chose ‘repairing the region’s roads’. A further 31% selected ‘major transport infrastructure’; and 24% for ‘developing the quality of apprenticeships’. Just 8% voted for ‘improving broadband speeds’.

In total, 68% of local FSB members thought that the region’s road network had not been maintained to an acceptable standard over the last three years. And when asked whether they thought better roads and pavements would help improve trade, 28% indicated ‘yes’, 26% said ‘no’, and 46% were ‘unsure’.

FSB Regional Chair for Greater Manchester & North Cheshire, Simon Edmondson, said: “This won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the sorry state of roads right across this region. From built up urban areas to rural lanes, many are now in a dreadful state following the harsh winter weather and a sustained period of neglect by local authorities.

“Our members rely on roads not just to trade, but for staff to get in to work, for goods to be delivered, and for customers to visit and spend. Why is it then that so many of these key trade routes have been allowed to fall in to such disrepair?

“We know small firms hang much of their business operations on the road network, more so than rail in most cases, yet we have a road network that is almost third world in some areas, something of a national embarrassment, and quite possibly a hindrance to business. It’s actually quite a depressing state of affairs.”

He added: “Our research shows town hall chiefs and candidates standing for election in both local and national elections come May where they should be concentrating resources. For far too long the road infrastructure has been sorely neglected, and we are fast approaching the point where repair bills will be unmanageable.”