Councils too lazy and prejudiced to help small businesses

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Three years after the London riots, with many small businesses still awaiting compensation, in response to our feature about the forgotten residents and businesses of West Croydon, ROD DAVIES argues that our borough council fails to properly serve local tradespeople

Gutted: the homes and businesses of London Road in 2011. Why has not enough been done to repair the situation?

Gutted: the homes and businesses of London Road in 2011. Why has not enough been done to repair the situation?

The problem with small businesses is that they lack the resources to be able to leave their businesses to attend meetings with council officers during office hours, unlike the “big players”, who have PR people and managers who can take a few hours out to sit in conferences and consultation sessions.

Small business people often lack the finesse to express themselves well, and for senior council officers to feel comfortable around them. Small business people often arrive angry because they’ve been ignored for years. The big company managers tend to be more middle class and better educated.

Nothing is new about the above. Small businesses create disproportionately higher numbers of jobs accessible to the socially marginal, and generally they plough their profits back into the local economy. Unlike their big company counterparts, they are far more likely to live close to their place of work. These small businesses tend to pay higher levels of tax in relation to their income because they cannot afford fancy accountants to find loopholes, and they certainly pay more overall into council coffers.

So why don’t councils get out there and engage with small businesses in deprived areas, support them and do everything they can to give them a fair voice?

The only answer of which I am aware is that councils are basically too lazy or too prejudiced. Small businesses compound this by not getting organised and not using their collective voice to demand better.

If Croydon wants to change, then this is an area that must change first to get balance in business representation and regeneration. We should also recognise that many if not most small businesses are not corner shops, but hard-working tradespeople.

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2 Responses to Councils too lazy and prejudiced to help small businesses

  1. Jonathan Law says:

    This is just about one of the best bits of editorial I have read on this site (and maybe anywhere in relation to businesses in Croydon).

    You have hit the nail squarely on the head. Local business men and women tend to reinvest locally either in their spending or by employing local people. They have a genuine vested and personal interest in the streets where they work and live.

    What differentiates one town from another isn’t the big shopping mall (full of identical shops to any other mall and often indistinguishable from those other malls) but the small independent shops and traders.
    It is the local colour and specialist shops and services that might take shoppers to choose to go to Croydon instead of Bromley or Sutton (or even Bluewater etc). Croydon used to be FULL of such independent stores , but they have declined in recent times. Pressure from internet sales, and operating cost factors such as high rents and business rates make it hard for enterprising people to “give it a go” and establish themselves and keep such a business going. But without that local expertise and those specialist traders, the town doesn’t have much appeal.

    No amount of shiny Westfields or other shopping centres can make a town special in the total absence of the independent shops that will make Croydon a true destination.

    However these traders do need a lot of help to be organised and get their voices heard and to get a fair or good deal . Croydon Council would be foolish to overlook them as they may play as big a part in Croydon having a future as any big deal with the “major players”

  2. Another amble down memory lane; this one lined with sepia-toned local shops.
    The problem is you’re the only one there: the rest of us have long since gone elsewhere.
    The public has deserted secondary shopping parades in huge numbers and nothing you can do will make them change their minds.
    Look at the Portas project in Croydon and other towns; a complete waste of tax-payers’ money.
    Stop whinging about business rates. They are expenses paid by everyone involved in running a retail operation. Likewise parking charges; if you think they’re too high, subsidise them out of your own profits in the same way that major companies do.
    In any case these charges are not the main cause for shoppers going elsewhere. Retail has moved on in the past few decades in terms of opening hours, quantity and quality of stock and marketing. In many cases, we have already moved on from shopping malls to on-line ordering and click & collect.
    If you can’t compete, find something else to do. Then we can demolish all the empty shops and replace them with genuinely affordable housing.

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