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David Richardson: We want to see the council buy even more goods locally to help firms

By David Richardson

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FSB regional development manager David Richardson.
FSB regional development manager David Richardson.

May 5 has come and gone, the people have spoken, and at the time of writing, discussions are taking place to establish who will run Highland Council’s new administration.

Fine, but once the dust has settled, how can the council and its councillors best support this region’s communities and their all-important local economies?

In the run up to the election I highlighted six low-cost, high-impact measures that FSB Scotland would like Highland Council to adopt to boost local recovery. However, since writing the manifesto the economic outlook has grown progressively worse, globally, nationally and locally, with, among other things, rising inflation and reduced consumer spending power affecting us all.

Things remain very delicately poised for many businesses, for whom the longed-for post-pandemic recovery is still some way off. However, small Highland businesses are a resilient lot, and they are used to adapting to survive. They shouldn’t be written off just yet, especially if they have an understanding, helpful and supportive Highland Council behind them.

We want to see the council buy even more goods and services locally; protect our high streets from damaging out-of-town developments; get its staff back into offices urgently so that their personal spending power once more boosts our high streets; invest even more in business start-ups; and ensure that all of its systems and processes for things like planning and licensing applications are fit for purpose, quick, efficient and inexpensive for customers.

But there’s more, for we’d like our newly-elected councillors to go all-out to see and understand the world in which the businesses have to operate, and also to get an appreciation for how businesses’ prospects, positive or negative, can be affected by council actions.

For example, in devising its version of the new short-term lets licensing scheme, it is vital that Highland Council inflicts no economic harm on economies and communities inadvertently because it failed to understand the consequences of its actions.

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