Levelling Up: The devil’s in the delivery, say small firms

Responding to the Government’s Levelling Up white paper announcement, Shaping Portsmouth Associate, FSB’s Development Manager for Hampshire, Dorset and Isle of Wight – Nicky Kildunne, said:

“The new Levelling Up agenda gives an opportunity to rebalance the system, making sure opportunities and funding are more equitably spread across the UK. It’s important that this white paper has real substance and nails down policies that are adequately funded to ensure that it makes a difference, so we look forward to going through all the details when it is published in full. Elected representatives from every locality must now be engaged closely to make meaningful change in all our communities across Hampshire, Dorset and Isle of Wight.

“To ensure Levelling Up is a success, small businesses must be front and centre, with improvements made to connectivity, business support and skills development across our area. The focus that the Government has put on locality, rejuvenating town centres and high streets, where the majority of businesses are small, is pleasing to see.

“Housing is key to levelling up and while it’s a positive move to provide loans to small housing firms as part of the Home Building Fund, a small house builders strategy is needed to make certain smaller businesses are at the forefront of policy thinking.

“In the wake of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan announcement, local public transport is important to small businesses and their employees, and improvements in its frequency and quality are much needed, as well as a focus on improving deteriorating local roads.

“In the towns and areas of Hampshire, Dorset and Isle of Wight where it is most key to level up, small businesses are not short of ambition and want to flourish and grow. Our research shows half of small business owners in these ‘less favoured areas’ striving to become a business leader in their community. But significant support is needed, addressing local inequalities and moving beyond just job creation.

“This paper certainly isn’t short of ambition but we need to make sure it is delivered well. The acid test will be whether small firms, which are integral to our economic recovery, feel better supported, are better connected, can find the right staff and feel more pride in their area. With potentially debilitating tax rises on the horizon, Levelling Up must now deliver lasting change; it cannot just be a worthy intention or partisan slogan.”