By Marcus Leach

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has today launched its Local Government Manifesto, ahead of local elections across England, to urge local authorities to think small first and ensure that the businesses which operate in their local areas can create prosperity and jobs.

Launched at the FSB National Conference in Liverpool, the manifesto stresses the importance of small firms to the local area and encourages local authorities to ensure that trade is kept local, that local infrastructure such as roads and broadband coverage is improved and to ensure that Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) include small businesses.

The FSB is fearful that at a time when councils across the country are facing significant budget cuts, that they may try to make up any shortfall in cash-flow by raising the cost of services as an easy way to raise revenue.

The manifesto urges local authorities to:

- Respond to financial challenges — Councils must think about the impact that proposals to cut services, revenue-raising through increases to parking charges or taking on new commercial activities would have on small firms.
- Help businesses — Local authorities should promote rate relief and targeted discounts for small firms, retain vital business support, ease the regulatory burden and use the planning system to better support local high streets and town centres.
- Engage with Business — Businesses are a key part of the community and need to be consulted regularly on the issues that affect them and must be properly represented on LEPs.
- Think small, think local — By procuring more products and services locally, the local public sector can help support small businesses and start-ups in their area generating wealth and employment,

Roger Culcheth, Federation of Small Businesses, Local Government Policy Chairman, said:

“Elections this year cover the vast majority of England. In all parts of the country, small firms are a vital part of the local community and during a fragile economic recovery such as this, there is no area where local small businesses are not integral to generating growth and prosperity.

“The FSB’s manifesto clearly outlines that we are ready and willing to work constructively with councils to improve the economy of local areas and to create a successful and vibrant business community. But, it isn’t just up to the businessmen and women of those areas — they need to see a commitment by councils to maintain services and not place hurdles in the way of doing their jobs.”