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Cross-Party Group on Small Shops: Supporting Entrepreneurship Inquiry Report Launch

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Cross-Party Group on Small Shops: Supporting Entrepreneurship Inquiry Report Launch

Wednesday 4th July 2018, 12:00 - 13:30: Conference Room D, Ty Hywel

Janet Finch-Saunders, Aberconwy
Russell George, Montgomeryshire
Mark Isherwood, North Wales
Vikki Howells, Cynon Valley
Bethan Sayed, South Wales West
Simon Thomas, Mid & West Wales
Steve Dowling, Association of Convenience Stores
James Lowman, Association of Convenience Stores
Edward Woodall, Association of Convenience Stores
Rhys Morris, Business Wales
Andrew Highway, Caerphilly County Borough Council
Robin Osterley, Charity Retail Association
Amy Bainton, FSB Wales
Dawn Elliott, ISA Training
Hannah Moscrop
Victoria Mann, NearMeNow
Imran Latif, Nisa
Stuart Taylor, Post Office
Rhian Brimble, RTPI Cymru
Jon Fudge, Welsh Government
Robert Hunter, Development Bank of Wales
Michelle Gunn, Prince's Trust Cymru

1. Welcome and Introductions

Janet Finch-Saunders AM welcomed delegates and introduced the background to the Supporting Entrepreneurship Inquiry. Janet welcomed the inquiry's final report and its focus on the three key themes of People, Places and Policy.

She detailed the report's focus on supporting ‘everyday entrepreneurs' trading on Welsh high streets and parades to grow and thrive. She commented on the need to retain access to cash locally for business owners as well as consumers, following bank branch closure programmes.

2. Final Report Overview

Janet Finch-Saunders AM presented an overview of the recommendations of the report. She said the report's recommendations, when taken together, would improve the performance of entrepreneurial businesses across Wales.

On people, the report calls for better communication of apprenticeship funding, support for small employers to employ apprentices, and a new high-profile approach from the Welsh Government to employer engagement within schools. The Inquiry also recommends a review of business support services available to existing and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Janet highlighted the impact of successful local high streets on how people perceive their local area. Changes in retail mean there is a need to manage changes to high streets carefully and promote effective business infrastructure for trading shops. The report outlines how declining access to banking services should not require entrepreneurs to spend more time away from their business and fast reliable broadband should be delivered to every Welsh property by 2021 as set out in the Taking Wales Forward Action Plan.

She detailed the report's policy recommendations, including establishing an ‘Entrepreneurs Test' for all new business regulations, incentivising investment through the business rates system and increasing awareness of existing business finance options.

3. Panel Session

James Lowman commended Wales as a good place to set up business relative to the rest of the UK, citing Welsh Government policies on planning and business rates. Amy Bainton welcomed the report for addressing enterprise education in schools and called for it to inform the Economic Action Plan.
Mark Isherwood AM outlined his support for recommendations of the inquiry, including an ‘Entrepreneurs Test' for business regulations and a review of business support services. Andrew Highway described Wales as a ‘nation of entrepreneurs' and welcomed the report bringing together how different policies impact independent business owners and its recommendations on business rates.

The panel welcomed Business Wales' face to face advice programmes but raised concerns that its support services become more difficult to access for mature businesses. The retail sector is not prioritised by the Welsh Government for apprenticeships funding and there is poor awareness amongst business owners about how to practically take on their first apprentice. The education system should deliver ‘parity of esteem' between vocational and academic qualifications.

Banking services, ATMs and digital connectivity are crucial infrastructure on high streets and shopping parades for business. Co-working spaces are also valuable as places to encourage networking and share best practice between business owners.

The panel welcomed the ‘Entrepreneurs Test', which could for example be used against proposals on tackling business rates avoidance. The Test could be extended to local authorities, which is the primary level of political engagement for most businesses. The business rates system should be reformed to deliver more frequent revaluations to promote stable tax outgoings and incentivise investment from ratepayers to improve their properties.

4. Q&A Session

The panel were asked to evaluate the impact of Car Free Sunday in Cardiff on local business. Parking policies should reflect how consumer shopping missions differ across commercial locations, which may, for example, alter the mix of short-stay and long-stay parking provisions in primary and secondary shopping areas. Parking policies should enable a ‘stop and shop' culture to reflect consumer demands for convenience.

5. Close

Janet Finch-Saunders AM thanked delegates for attending and closed the meeting.




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