Gloucestershire business in need of a boost ahead of local elections

Ian Mean
Director of Business West Gloucestershire | Business West
4th May 2021

Local councillors in Gloucestershire are doing all they can to muster last minute votes in the local council elections this week.

I don’t think we will see any major changes in the political complexion of our six district councils.

But what I hope will happen is that the newly elected councillors will really get down to developing solid plans to support their local businesses.

Most, I am afraid, have failed to do that properly…

Where are the new ideas and the visionary plans that will enable our businesses - particularly our small and medium size businesses (SMEs) - to continue their COVID recovery?

This a very worrying time for those small businesses, many of whom have struggled to survive and now face the pressure of paying back government loans.

On top of that there are the iniquitous business rates - a tax by any other name, which rarely benefits local business.

They must be reformed or scrapped.

I think we desperately need a coherent, national business and industrial strategy.

The Local Industrial Strategy developed by our board at GFirstLEP was a step in the right direction for our county but that has now been swallowed up in the government’s Build Back Better strategy.

I believe that is just not good enough.

Indeed, the final report of the COVID Recovery Commission, chaired by John Allan, chairman of Tesco and Barratt Developments, says the UK needs a “national prosperity plan”.

They say this needs to be led by business, government and civic society to address longstanding problems of weak productivity and inequality.

And the commission addresses what it says are the UK’s key weaknesses - skills, infrastructure, investment, competitiveness, regional inequality and income inequality.

It has set five national “imperatives”. 

I like their first which is to create at least one globally competitive industry in each region of the UK by 2030.

That is a must for Gloucestershire and the South West.

For far too long we have been guilty of hiding our business talents under a bushel and not shouting about them.

I hope that our newly elected councillors can help the Western Gateway political partnership put that to rights.

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