The Government must do more to help companies survive the tough economic times; that was the message that emerged from a meeting of Bristol’s business leaders.
Senior business leaders took part in a meeting arranged to coincide with a visit from John Longworth – the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.
Phil Smith, managing director of Business West, explained: “We wanted John to come and hear about all the good work we do to support and represent local businesses, as well as to hear from the businesses themselves about issues and barriers to growth that they experience on a daily basis.”
The discussion involved firms such as EC Harris, Barton Wilmore, 3Sixty, JBP, the University of the West of England, and Colin Skellett – the chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership.
According to those taking part the availability of finance, the lack of the right skills, employment regulations, planning and the lack of clear national strategy on infrastructure were all identified as vital issues.
Despite the concerns the overall feel of the meeting was upbeat with people positive about the prospects for their own businesses but concerned over uncertain economic conditions.
Mr Skellett said: “Whilst the Government is sending out many of the right messages, there needs to be more clear action and focus on key business issues.
“We are seeing a whole raft of different initiatives but the tendency to answer every problem with a new fund or scheme causes confusion and distraction.
“The Government is not yet addressing the needs of small business. We need to be doing more to support SMEs, to reduce unnecessary red tape that hinders businesses and make it easier to access the finance they require to grow.”
Chris Thurling, MD of 3Sixty digital agency, said: “Small businesses are still having difficulty in raising funding for working capital, it is far harder now than five years ago.
"When you add to that the problems we have in actually getting paid and the delay in payments coming through, as well as the overall uncertainty business has about future growth, times are tough for smaller businesses in particular.”
Richard Bonner, from EC Harris in the South West, said: “The construction sector has been hard hit over the last few years and smart organisations have refocused their priorities.
“At EC Harris we work around all aspects of the asset lifecycle and have shifted much of our efforts into growth sectors, such as energy and infrastructure. In the South West there are major opportunities around nuclear power at Oldbury and Hinkley for example.”
PUBLICATION: South West Business - 15 June 2012