SMEs need larger role in devolution plans, claims trade body » SMEInsider

SMEs need larger role in devolution plans, claims trade body

The Manufacturer’s organisation (EEF) is demanding that small businesses should have a much better relationship with local government during England’s devolution process.


Devolution plans

In May, SME Insider reported that the Conservative Party is planning to give more powers to local governments, putting Mayors in charge of their town’s housing, transport, planning and policing.

Cities will also get a greater control over public spending, including Greater Manchester, who will have an extra £5bn to play with each year. Local councils are already starting to see the effects of the devolution plans, with George Osborne recently announcing that all councils in England will keep 100 per cent of their business rates by 2020.

The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill is the piece of legislation that will make provisions for the transferring of power in England.

Today marks the second time that the bill will be debated in the House of Commons, but the EEF has already made its feelings towards the document clear, asking for more SME involvement within the devolution process.

The organisation published a paper directed at the bill which claims that ‘the relationship between business and local authorities is currently weak,’ while at the same time leaving the voice of local business behind.

The EEF also slammed the government for not including the thoughts of more small businesses in the bill, stating that they have the most to gain from the bill, but historically are the most disengaged group in government.


‘Local decision makers and businesses will need a sustained dialogue’

In order to remedy the situation, the EEF has called for a number of changes to occur during the devolution period, including:

  • Greater efforts to improve relationships between business and local authorities.
  • Amending the Bill so it provides an ‘independent, business-led, overview and scrutiny of combined authorities and their plans for local growth’.
  • Enhance the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s), but making sure that they are business led instead of politically led.
  • Local authorities should prioritise the devolution of transport in their negotiations with government.

‘‘The devolution of power to local areas in England must not be seen as an end in itself but a process aimed at tailoring local business environments to make them better places for business growth,’’ said Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF.

‘‘Ultimately, local decision makers and businesses will need a sustained dialogue on how they can make their local areas places in which businesses can prosper.’’

‘‘To date, however, business has felt disengaged from the process of devolution. For it to succeed in England, business must be fully signed up as partners in the negotiation and delivery of devolution deals.’’

‘‘This must include a key role for LEPs and a focus on areas where tangible outcomes can be delivered in the near term, especially in transport infrastructure,’’ ended Scuoler.

How will the devolution plans specifically affect SMEs? Find out here.