By Daniel Hunter

Local councils are jeopardising local business growth according to new research from ACCA, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. One in five UK small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) said that decisions made by their local councils were having a detrimental impact on their business.

Decisions regarding parking and traffic restrictions, red tape around business premises and procurement of goods and services from out-of-town businesses were all common complaints from the 500 SMEs surveyed.

The failure of councils to think local first has not gone unnoticed by the general public. In a survey of 2,000 UK consumers, almost half (48 per cent) said that councils should be doing more to help local SMEs, while a quarter (27 per cent) said they felt councils were actively hindering local SME growth.

“In recent years, the UK public has been encouraged to support British businesses and now the same principle must be applied on a local scale," Andrew Leck, Head of ACCA UK, said.

"SMEs make up 99% of all UK organisations, and our research shows that local councils simply cannot afford to ignore the ramifications of their decisions on these local businesses”.

In spite of the lack of attention from local councils, the future looks bright for many SMEs. Only 4 per cent of SMEs said that they would need to reduce their local presence over the coming year, while 14 per cent said that they were planning to increase their footprint and 10 percent said that they were exploring international trade opportunities.

“It is encouraging to see that small businesses remain positive and are looking for ways to expand and grow in the coming years — both from a local and international perspective," Leck added.

"Councils must recognise the role they have to play in local economic development and ensure that all decisions are made with local SMEs in mind so as not to stifle this positivity”.

Despite Government efforts to encourage the UK’s big banks to lend to small businesses, only 3 per cent of SMEs said they were planning on approaching their bank for a loan in the next 12 months.

“Make no mistake — it has become harder to secure funding in recent years, but if an SME needs an injection of cash to survive or expand then they shouldn’t be afraid to ask their bank. Speaking with an accountant or financial adviser is often the best way to identify the best means of funding for your business and how to go about obtaining it,” Leck concluded.

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