Friday, 4 December 2015

Our best bet is to grow the firms we’ve got

This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on December 4th 2015

Fresh thinking needed to help small firms 

Tomorrow, Saturday December 5th, is Small Business Saturday

It’s a UK-wide initiative to highlight small business success, and to encourage people to ‘shop local’.

Supporting small businesses is one of the reasons why I’m petitioning Plaid run Carmarthenshire Council to drop their plan to increase the number of chains stores at Parc Trostre, which small traders in Llanelli town centre fear may be the last straw for the market.

I warmly welcome the creation of a task force for the town centre, and I support the Business Improvement District plan that Llanelli small businesses are organising themselves to pool their resources to improve the shopping experience in town.

But all this good work will be undermined by allowing Trostre to grow.  Plaid were full of talk in the run up to the General Election of ‘saving the town’ and of delivering free car parking. Yet as soon as they took over the Council they announced plans which will jeopardise the town, and their one month free parking trial is a shadow of what they promised.

Llanelli market traders signing my petition

I’ve run a small business and I know how tough it can be. I’m keen to talk to others with experience of running firms to get their ideas of how we can grow businesses in Llanelli.  

The days of expecting big foreign investment to bring jobs are behind us. Our best bet is to grow the firms we’ve got, not least since the profit stays in the local area and is not diverted to offshore tax havens.

Some of the most interesting ideas for new policies for political parties to consider in their manifesto’s for next May’s Assembly elections have come from the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales. They have leapfrogged the CBI as the body with the most thoughtful ideas about how to boost the economy.

In their recent policy document the FSB had a series of ideas to help locally owned businesses that I’d like to run with if I get elected to represent Llanelli in the Senedd.

One of their proposals is to create a Wales Small Business Administration to support the needs of firms with 0 to 250 employees. This would have overall policy responsibility for small firms and would be tasked with implementing a strategy for growth and making more finance available for small businesses. 

They also suggested changes to business rates which would really help smaller firms. And much needed reforms to transport which would see investment for public transport, rather than the wasteful and damaging plan to spend £1 Billion on a new stretch of Motorway in Newport.

It’s time we had some fresh thinking on boosting the Welsh economy, and helping our small businesses should be at the heart of it.

Lee Waters is the Welsh Labour Assembly candidate for Llanelli

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