It has often been said that small businesses are the ‘lifeblood’ of our economy, both nationally and locally. It is most certainly true here in Lincoln where more that 80% of our businesses are small businesses and, since the recession, there have been an increasing number of people turning to self employment and the creation of their own business. They deserve all the help we can give them.
As the Federation of Small Businesses Manifesto for the 2015 Election quite rightly says: “Small businesses have a huge amount to offer. They are agile and create jobs faster and in larger numbers than any other kind of organisation can, with an army of small businesses in every region and every sector. They are the very fabric of our communities, helping small businesses helps society.”
It is certainly true that a much larger proportion of the wealth created by small local businesses finds its way back into the local economy.
Again this year on Small Business Saturday, on December 6, we take the opportunity to support, inspire and promote small businesses in the city. The City Council will be joining with a range of other partners to celebrate the contribution of small businesses and demonstrate how we can all help them thrive.
The City Council has an established small business support team in City Hall and it is proactive in dealing with enquiries, offering advice and support and signposting small businesses to sources of help.
The council has also for some years provided managed workspaces which enable small businesses to establish and grow. These provide small workspaces with excellent professional office facilities and help reduce overheads in the first crucial months of getting a new small business established. The flexible “month in month out” rental agreements are a real help in avoiding over burdensome commitments whilst the business gets established.
As with many other large public sector organisations, the City Council purchases a substantial quantity of goods and services. With our Procurement Lincolnshire partners we look to make it as easy as possible for small local firms to win contracts to provide these so that we optimise the benefits of that purchasing power for the local economy.
The council also administers the small business rate relief scheme and granted some £1.86 million rate relief this year. The retail relief rate introduced this year can benefit retail businesses with a rateable value of below £50,000. We have already granted £360,000 relief this year.
There are other reliefs available such as the re-occupation relief, where if a firm occupies a property which has been empty for over 12 months and when last used was a retail business, they can receive a 50% discount for a period of 18 months.
We were delighted that the Lincoln Business Improvement Group (BIG) were again supported by businesses in the city and will now be able to build on all the excellent work they have done so far.
Last, and by no means least, the City Council organises the annual Christmas Market in the city, which provides a fantastic opportunity for all the smaller local businesses to benefit from the 250,000 potential customers who come to the city to experience the market.
Along with our partners locally, we have published a new Growth Plan for the city which sets out the challenges and the opportunities facing Lincoln over the next 20 years or so.
There is no doubt that small businesses have a central role to play in the future success and prosperity of Lincoln. We must do everything we can to help them succeed.