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Cross-Party Group on Small Shops: Supporting Entrepreneurship Inquiry

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Cross-Party Group on Small Shops: Supporting Entrepreneurship Inquiry

Minutes of the evidence session held at 11:30am on 7th March 2018

Conference Room A, Ground Floor, Ty Hywel

PRESENT:

Janet Finch-Saunders AM Chair
Hannah Moscrop Office of Janet Finch-Saunders AM
Edward Woodall Association of Convenience Stores
Sue Thompson Princes Trust Cymru
David Hagendyk Learning and Work Institute
Andrew Highway Welsh Local Government Association
Meurig Watts Welsh Government
Martin Kearsley Post Office
Stuart Taylor Post Office
Geraint Strello BT Group
Mark Isherwood AM Member
Russell George AM Member
Mandy Jones AM Member

APOLOGIES:

Vikki Howells AM Vice Chair
Steve Dowling Association of Convenience Stores
Tim Pratt Association of School and College Leaders Cymru

1. Welcome and Introductions

Janet Finch Saunders (JFS) opened the meeting and welcomed attendees. JFS referenced that the Cross-Party Group had recently run an excellent event in the Senned to launch ACS' Welsh Local Shop Report.
JFS provided an overview of the terms of reference for the Supporting Entrepreneurship Inquiry and explained that today's evidence session would focus on the People and Places elements. Meeting attendees were invited to introduce themselves and their organisations.

2. People Panel

Sue Thompson (ST) from the Princes Trust and David Hagendyk (DH) from the Learning and Work Institute were the main organisations giving evidence in this session.

There was extensive discussion of the need to focus on the delivery of "soft skills" for young people. This included time management and people skills that are essential for running a business or being entrepreneurial.

ST outlined how the Princes Trust deliver this through their Enterprise Programme, which involves mentoring and ongoing support for candidates to see if self-employment is appropriate for them.

DH suggested that the skills debate was too focused on the existing apprenticeships system. The apprenticeships system is too sector-focused and is not a panacea for delivery of skills.

DH suggested that the skills debate needed to be expanded to encompass all ages not just young people. There are numerous points of career transition in people's working lives e.g. after maternity leave or childcare commitments or moving home. How does the system currently aim to plug skills gaps when these life events occur?
There was discussion of the resources available to help people consider starting their own business. Careers Wales does not have the resources to support with the growth of a business and Business Wales does not have dedicated resources on business growth. ST suggested more needed to be done to match individual needs with opportunities.
It was suggested that there is not enough focus on vocational and entrepreneurial training in schools, including the delivery of softer skills. One of the barriers identified was that schools are rewarded based on exam results the proportion of students going to university. There was strong support for greater business mentoring of young people and a focus on financial education in schools.

3. Places Panel

Andrew Highway (AH) from the Welsh Local Government Association, Muerig Watt (MW) from the Welsh Government, Martin Kearsley (MK) from the Post Office and Geraint Strello (GS) gave evidence to this panel.

AH provided background on his work on managing town centres. AH highlighted that each town centre was different but key things that can help are understanding footfall data, communication of legislative changes and traders and town centre events that engage the whole community.

AH has developed a directory of empty properties with contact details for the landlord/lease holder to help new investors seek out opportunities to invest. For town centres he has worked with there was a focus on developing town centre identities and branding.

MW outlined that the Welsh Government's Viable and Vibrant Places fund had focused £110 million over three years on regeneration of town centres. The key element to a successful town centre was driving footfall. The Welsh Government funding had been targeted in certain town centres and was not meant to support all towns. More funding was needed to support regeneration.

MK from the Post Office outlined the Post Office's relationship with government and the requirement on Post Offices to be represented in all communities. MK outlined the important role of the Post Office in every community and that the public recognised Post Offices as the service with the most positive impact on local communities.

MK outlined that the Post Office is playing a positive role in enabling small businesses to trade and towns to thrive through its expanding banking services. These services are often plugging gaps in banking service provision on high streets and in rural communities.

MK highlighted that there is no limit on the amount of cash that can be deposited at a Post Office by a business, if they had made the necessary arrangements with the Post Office beforehand.

GS from BT outlined that 94% of premises are fibre broadband enabled. The delivery of fibre broadband was very expensive that is why there is joint working between public and private sector to deliver broadband across Wales.

4. Close

JFS thanked delegates and closed the meeting.

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