Surrey County Council works closely with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and has signed the FSB Small Business Engagement Accord. The FSB is the UK's largest campaigning pressure group promoting and protecting the interests of the self-employed and the owners of small firms.
Small Business Engagement Accord
The Small Business Engagement Accord (Accord) is an agreement between the FSB and local authorities, including Surrey County Council, to include small businesses in decision-making. Local authorities sign up to 14 Accord Principles, which broadly promote the importance of listening to the views of small businesses.
The Accord Principles include nominating business engagement champions from amongst the business community and within the council, as well as encouraging greater consultation with a wider range of business and community leaders.
The Accord is part of the FSB's Keep Trade Local Campaign, which seeks to highlight the need to preserve local services and networks such as pubs, post offices and banks to help small businesses survive.
- Councils should nominate representatives to be "business engagement champions" whose role will be to ensure that the views of the local business community are considered at every stage of any consultation exercise.
- Council "business engagement champions" should be tasked with creating effective links with all sections of the business community.
- Councils should identify business owners that can be "engagement champions" within their local business community.
- Councils should look to "front load" consultations in order to ensure that engagement with the business community happens at the earliest stages of any consultation exercise.
- Local authorities must use recognised business organisations when consulting with small businesses.
- Councils must not regard consultation with just one business or business organisation as an adequate consultation.
- Local, regional and central government should make consultation documents easier to understand and easier to respond to.
- Consultation documents should use the correct language for the relevant audience.
- Councils should employ a range of communication tools to promote better business engagement in consultations including for example utilising consultation documents, newsletters, information on websites, text messages, local media, or staff directly working with businesses.
- To increase attendance at consultation events councils should give greater notice periods in advance of any meetings.
- Consultation with the business community should not be limited to formal consultation exercises but should be an ongoing dialogue. Councils should therefore look to hold at least one open meeting per quarter with local businesses and business organisations to encourage an open two-way exchange of information.
- Councils should not underestimate the ability of the business community to deal with strategic issues and therefore there should be genuine consultation on an annual basis with small businesses to examine council spending plans for the following financial year.
- Effective consultation should demonstrate to business owners the outcomes and the rationale behind the final decisions.
- Councils should work with their Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) to ensure they communicate and consult with their local small businesses and business representative organisations and take on board good practice examples from well-run, existing LSPs.
Surrey County Council has also joined a FSB scheme to champion entrepreneurs across Surrey. The aim of the scheme is to remove the burdens that small firms face in setting up and growing their businesses. For more information on the scheme please see the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) website.