Posted: Sat 29th Jun 2019
It's time to extend more powers to local areas when it comes to small business support, the boss of the Liverpool Local Enterprise Partnership has claimed.
"The devolution genie is out of the bottle," said Mark Basnett during the Enterprise Research Centre's annual conference in London on Thursday.
Speaking during a panel debate about what's needed to strengthen enterprise and sectors in local areas, Basnett criticised "over centralised politics and government" for leading to not enough attention being paid for more deprived areas where businesses need support.
"Our view is local knows best provided you get the best people around the table," he added.
"We benefit from having a mayoral resource but other areas don't have that. Our hope is whatever government takes over will continue that devolution."
Rebecca McDonald, analyst at Centre for Cities, agreed. "On the one hand, it's good to see powers devolved to local areas such as metro mayors, but much more is needed in terms of transport and education," she said.
Characteristics of best local areas for small businesses
So how can local areas develop the best conditions and support for small businesses to thrive?
"There needs to be less focus on sectors and more on places", McDonald explained.
"Businesses don't randomly start somewhere, they look for a good place to be - a place where people get together and interactions create new ideas.
"To create such a space, you need really quality fundamentals; use education policy for skilled workers, transport policy to get the people to their jobs, infrastructure and planning policy to create high quality spaces for people to work."
And that needs to reach all businesses, the panellists said. "It's our responsibility to serve all of our economy," Basnett commented. "We can't be blind that in places like Liverpool you've got a great city centre but go a mile away and you've got some of the most deprived areas in Britain."
Earlier in the day too, Ben Brabyn, CEO at Level39, a for finance and cybersecurity businesses based in London's Canary Wharf, said start-up clusters need to be inclusive of the whole community.
"Involving the local community in start-up ecosystems is a challenge we must all rise to," he said. "Consider who's not in the ecosystem as well as who is. For ecosystems to thrive we need to demonstrate we are doing something that benefits everyone, not just the few."
And it's not about areas heavily competing for the best businesses either; the panellists agreed that collaboration between cities and towns is also important.
Roya Croudace, director at Enterprise M3 Growth Hub, said it's about developing clusters locally first which then makes it a lot easier to accelerate collaboration on a national level within the same sector or across different sectors.
How Enterprise Nation is supporting local businesses
Alongside Enterprise Nation's 300+ events across the UK, we've launched Energiser, a business accelerator in 12 local areas which provides intensive face-to-face and peer support for the growing number of small firms looking for affordable and relevant advice.
An initial cohort of Local Leaders will develop and nurture a community of around 20 local firms who will join a 10-week programme to build confidence, share experiences, and achieve growth.