Good news for town tradersBy Hugh Fort
December 04, 2008
Plans for a support package to help Wokingham businesses during the credit crunch have been given unanimous approval by councillors.
Councillor David Lee, leader of Wokingham Borough Council, tabled a motion to support companies at a full council meeting held on Thursday, November 27.
In it, Cllr Lee put forward several methods to help small businesses struggling during the current economic situation.
These include meeting with local businesses and coming up with a plan to provide aid to them.
The council members also urged the scrutiny committee to make sure that small businesses who could get Small Business Rates Relief apply to get the funding.
It will also encourage bigger businesses in Wokingham trading with smaller ones to pay up promptly, ideally within 20 days rather than the usual 30.
A more controversial plan was to review procurement processes to make sure the council uses small local firms for council contracts when it can.
However, opposition member Cllr Prue Bray, from the Lib Dems, called procurement laws a “legal minefield”.
After the meeting, she said: “There are a lot of laws surrounding large contracts, with specific thresholds and a long, complicated process around it.
“You have to advertise in European journals and obey the law about choosing best value.”
The motion passed also contained the pledge that it will use Local Authority Business Growth Incentive money to help small firms, and use the Hardship Rate Relief scheme to keep businesses going in the area.
The motion came about when the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) wrote to Cllr Lee, to ask for assistance for local businesses during the financial crisis.
Cllr Lee said: “I have great sympathy with small businesses.
“The majority of small businesses in the country employ between five and 15 people and they provide most of the employment in the country.
“I’m keen together with the local business community to see how we can help.
“We must be realistic and have a can-do approach, not just hold meetings.”
Cllr Stephen Conway, for the Lib Dems, said: “We are supporting it very happily. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the community.
“We should be doing what we can to support them.”
He added that other councils were trying to pay for services within 10 days, and suggested that further motions could consider this as a possible option in future.
The FSB has been running a Keep Trade Local campaign, urging shoppers, councils and organisations to back small businesses, with support from The Wokingham Times.