Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Barnet Council - Happy to help you run your business!

Today the Council posted the following press release - http://www.barnet.gov.uk/news/article/604/council_to_host_business_expo

Council to Host Business Expo

Council to Host Business Expo

Published Monday 13 October 2014
Barnet Council and Re, the council’s joint venture with Capita, will be hosting a Business Expo on 23 October. At the event, local businesses will be able to tell the council how services can be improved and find out how to become a supplier to the council. Visitors to the Expo will also be able to hear from other businesses such as Action Coach and Pro Actions on topics like accessing finance, preparing business plans and doing business with the council. 
The Barnet Business Expo will take place at the council’s offices at North London Business Park (Oakleigh Road South) from 9:30am to 2pm. As well as exhibitions and networking opportunities, there will be seminars and workshops repeated throughout the day, so that business representatives can attend at the times that suit them. 

The event is part of a wider effort from the council to consult on proposals to make Barnet the “best place in London to be a small business”. The final proposals will be considered by the council’s Assets, Regeneration and Growth Committee on 15 December.

Barnet’s reputation as a borough of entrepreneurs and small businesses was enhanced last year as figures show that there were more small business start-ups in the borough than any other outer-London borough (Office for National Statistics Business Demography, 2012).

To book a place at the Expo event, or to find out about sponsorship, please e-mail barnetbusiness@barnet.gov.uk or visit www.barnet.gov.uk/barnet-business-expo

Chairman of Barnet Council’s Assets, Regeneration and Growth Committee, Councillor Dan Thomas, said: “I am delighted that the council is putting on this event and I am sure it will prove to be a worthwhile forum for local business leaders and decision makers to discuss how we can make our borough an even better place for business. 

“Barnet is already a borough of entrepreneurs with nine out of ten businesses in Barnet having ten or fewer employees. We want to explore what support the council can meaningfully give small businesses to grow in the borough.” 
There are many things I would like to tell the council about how they work with small business. I will however stick to a few pointers based on issues reported to the Barnet Eye.
1. Implement business friendly parking policies, such as restoring cash pay and display.
2. Conduct rates appeals in a timely fashion. There is no good reason why a local authority should sit on other peoples money.
3. Do not send Capita's Equita bailiffs into businesses to collect debts which are in the proces of being paid.

4. Cut red tape for small scale suppliers. One local business had to do a 56 risk assessment simply to replace filters at a local authority run school pond. 

5. Attend local events organised by the Federation of Small Business and other organisations. 

6.  Include  a "benefit to local economy" scoring in all contract awards big and small in Barnet. 

7. Stop wasting huge amounts of money on expensive consultants producing "High Street Regeneration schemes".

8. Protect sites that are used for business purposes and make it easier to amend the classification of business premesis, especially when there is strong local support. Give local people a say in change of use applications. 
9. Pay their bills to small business. The last dealings I had with Barnet Council, they refused to pay a £25 bill for a man with mental health  issues, who they had arranged to have "drum practice sessions" as part of his therapy. I was told that "the paperwork wasn't in order". To recover this money, would have cost me hours, so sadly I decided it wasn't cost justifiable. The end result is I don't do business with Barnet Council and one man with mental help issues couldn't carry on having drum practice. 

The council has a limited role to play in promotion of small business. I've been to plenty of  small business events organised by the council. Leaders listens business breakfasts and a couple of engagement with Capita meetings. It is always the same, fine words are said and nothing happens.  
As I say, I don't believe the conspiracy theories, but I do see the wastefulness. I speak to other people in other businesses and I see the pattern repeated. At recent business meetings, I've spoken to various people who tell me that Capita will make the Council more business like and business focussed. I am not so sure. I wish Councillor Dan Thomas well in his bid to improve things. I will not be attending. I have been to far too many such events and all have been a waste of time. Until fellow business owners tell me "Things are changing and the council is listening" what is the point. If the council want to prove they are listening, the secret is simple. Bring back coin operated pay and display and have 30 mins free parking in selected High Street parking bays. Every business I've spoken to agrees that this will help High Street regeneration and show the council is taking the issue seriously. 

And before you start saying anything, my business doesn't need High Street Parking, we have plenty on site. It is one of the reasons we are successful. On the first Monday of every month, there is a Federation of Small Business breakfast at Cafe Buzz in Finchley. This has been going for two years and apart from Michael Lassman, who organisese it, I am the only person to have attended every single event. I've met at least half a dozen very useful business contacts, including the website designer who has helped us generate a 60% increase in our business, and the photographer who has taken most of our publicity shots. It's not that I don't believe in such events, its just that I don't have any faith that the council will add any value until they show they are prepared to listen. 

It would be good to see Councillor Dan Thomas at Cafe Buzz on the first Monday of November. Maybe that would be a start.

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