Taking the crunch to taskBy Hugh Fort
March 23, 2009
Action to help kick-start Wokingham’s economy is taking off thanks to a new business taskforce.
Members of the Wokingham Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Business (FSB) and local businesses have set up the Wokingham Business Task Group in a bid to protect firms from the grip of the credit crunch.
Small firms have been reassured they will receive payment for bills worth less than £2,000 as soon as possible, rather than the usual 60 days, from Wokingham Borough Council under the plans.
The group's founding members have been running the Keep Trade Local campaign, which is backed by the Wokingham Times and its sister papers the Bracknell Forest Standard and the Reading Evening POst.
The campaign aims to drum up support for small businesses by encouraging shoppers to use independent shops or risk losing them forever.
David Knowles-Leak, from the FSB, added: “The task group was a really positive initiative for businesses in Wokingham borough and could play a key role in monitoring the impact of the economic downturn on small businesses and co-ordinating actions.”
The council is also working on a new system it says will make it easier to bid for council contracts, including an event next month which will allow small local businesses to compete for contracts.
The event aims to give local firms a chance to work for the council but also to understand the system used for bidding for contracts.
The matter of a Local Area Business Growth Initiative (LABGI) grant of £300,000 money given to the council last year, plus another £100,000 from the scheme this year, was also discussed at the meeting.
It was revealed the money is in the council coffers and controlled by the council’s executive committee, but the cash will be used to support town centre projects.
After the meeting, Mark Ashwell, chairman of Wokingham Chamber of Commerce, said: “I understood that money had been given to the council for town centre projects and I hope that will remain the case.
“It was a very good, positive meeting.
“The new invoice scheme is an improvement already and there are other things in the pipeline which are encouraging.
“The one overriding concern I have is the continuing lack of a town centre manager.
“I understand Wokingham Town Council is looking at funding a role, but I really feel it needs the co-operation of the borough council.”
Councillor Dianne King, executive member of community development, said: “The first meeting of the Business Task Group was extremely positive and outlines what action is already being taken to help businesses manage their cash flow and how we can support them in the future.
“It is important that the council and its partners are in a position to help businesses during the coming months, should the economic downturn worsen.”
The next meeting of the taskforce will take place in April.