The new leadership of Aberdeen City Council should push the Aberdeen City Region Deal to make sure that the voices of local smaller businesses are heard, said the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
Launching its manifesto ahead of the May 4 council polls, the small business campaign group says Aberdeen’s incoming administration must ensure that the £250m investment will benefit smaller businesses, by appointing a Small Business Champion who will represent their interests in the governance and operation of the deal.
Around 93% of businesses in Aberdeen are small and medium sized enterprise (SMEs), accounting for more than 61,000 – or 41% – of private sector jobs, along with over 8,000 self-employed. And the top industry sector in the council area – professional, scientific and technical activity – is dominated by small businesses (96%).
Small businesses are vital part of the city, contributing £11.4bn to the local economy. FSB believes that their interests must be represented in the deal’s decision-making process.
It suggests that a Small Business Champion should become a part of the City Region Project Management Office and sit on the Joint Committee overseeing the delivery of the deal.
Seven out of ten smaller businesses in the Aberdeen City region feel that decisions taken by the two local authorities are too remote from their communities, according to FSB’s survey.
Andy Willox OBE, Chair of FSB in Aberdeen, said: “With the downturn in the oil and gas sector, now more than ever we need to look at how we future-proof our economy and create a broad, resilient and diverse business base.
“Business Gateway’s record-breaking start up figures for Aberdeen show that there is a real appetite amongst people to start up on their own. An independent Small Business Champion would make sure that key decisions on the Cities Deal take small businesses’ interests into account and that they get a fair share of the investment.”
FSB are also calling for the new administration provide on the ground support, by offering disused council premises for free to local start-up businesses, pop-up operators or the self-employed. Figures published in November 2016 show that 28 building in the city have been closed down since 2010 and 18 of these are still unoccupied.