BUY LOCAL, BUY SMALL FOR THE LOCAL ECONOMY

In May, there were council elections in Scotland. The results have been announced and, at the time of writing this article, political parties in most council areas, including Stirling, are in discussion about who is to form an administration.

The last two years have underlined just how important councils and local businesses are to each other. Businesses stepped up and found ways to deliver essentials in their communities.

Councils designed and delivered a variety of COVID grants aimed at local businesses hit hardest.

Councils are key players in local economies. They maintain and build new infrastructure; invest in our towns, cities and villages; educate our children; keep our streets clean; enjoy significant spending power; and regulate and support businesses.

When local Government uses these powers to support local businesses – such as when they provided COVID grant support – a range of social and economic benefits materialise.

The unparalleled local insight, spending and decision-making powers that local authorities and small businesses possess make them a powerful driver of local change.

This election, therefore, was a unique opportunity to deepen and strengthen the relationship between local Government and local small businesses so that we can deliver for our economies and communities.

Prior to the election, FSB in Scotland published a manifesto which contains key asks for returning and newly elected councillors – asks which we believe would maximise the power of local economies and help local recovery.

One of our key asks was about public procurement. Local Government in Scotland spends around £7bn each year purchasing goods and services. This significant spending power, if effectively harnessed, could make a real difference to local economies.

Buying local can help councils support new jobs, create new businesses and, of course, reduce their carbon footprint.

We are therefore urging new council administrations, including the one in Stirling, to set ambitious targets to increase procurement spending with smaller local firms by 2% every year to deliver an additional £140m for the Scottish economy. Stirling Council spends around £125m annually, which means a 2% increase in procurement spending with local firms would result in an additional £2.5m investment in the local economy.

The good news is that the council appears to be very much on board with this and is already developing its commitment to the idea of Community Wealth Building – the idea that public sector organisations should ensure wealth is locally owned and shared by local people.

FSB has been arguing for spending local and small for a long time, so it’s great to see councils across the country, including Stirling, explore new and creative ways to help ensure that public money stays in the local economies.

For more information about FSB Scotland, visit the website www.fsb.org.uk

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