REPORT: MP visits local businesses in the Stroud constituency 2018/19

REPORT: MP visits local businesses in the Stroud constituency 2018/19

Report findings

The visits conducted so far were undertaken over a 12-month period by David Drew MP, Councillor Trevor Hall, and/or other representatives from Stroud District Council. The aim was to discuss matters of interest to companies and of relevance to the Stroud district.

During the visits we met with key representatives from more than 30 businesses, varying in size from three to over 600 employees, within a range of employment sectors including engineering, aerospace, medical, care, food, and other ancillary activities.

(For your further information, employment data for the Stroud district, including employee jobs by industry, size and employment statistics, can be found here.)

The discussions broadly covered three areas, which at times were very interrelated:

  • Local business health and employment issues in today’s economy

  • The impact of Brexit

  • Future outlook and issues for David Drew as Stroud MP to follow up

A summary of our main findings follows.

Local business health and employment issues in today’s economy

  • All businesses surveyed reported positive trading and many were looking to expand and recruit more staff

  • 92% experience difficulties employing staff with the skills and abilities required for their sector

  • There remains a high dependency on agency and temporary staff in all sectors

  • 32% said that they are unable to source appropriate or better/larger business premises

  • A small number said that they are very aware of environmental responsibilities and are acting to reduce their carbon footprint. Some businesses are entirely dependent on environmental gains

  • All businesses informed us that they trade locally and have strong partnerships in the district

  • Most employ a high number of people who live in the Stroud district and have very positive working relationships with their employees, and this is a key factor in them being located here and wanting to stay here

  • One major factory has been earmarked for closure, with relocation to France or Italy in 2021. This will have a major impact in the district

  • Trade unions were valued in those businesses where there is an existing partnership but overall we did not find a high level of representation

  • There was little or no antagonism towards trade unions, but employers did not necessarily see the advantage of having union members and representation

  • The high number of companies with agency and temporary workers made union membership additionally problematic.

The impact of Brexit

  • Businesses were divided on whether Brexit would have a positive or negative effect on their

  • business and the wider economy. However, it was overwhelmingly apparent that leaving without a deal would be very difficult

  • The main issue was that uncertainty was causing them to withdraw from some tendering opportunities they may otherwise have pursued, as well as not taking on additional employees who they might otherwise have taken on

  • This was very much reflected in the fact that some employers have delayed investment plans because of the uncertainty

  • It was interesting to note how many EU employees were present within the companies surveyed, and concern was expressed about if those individuals were lost to the companies.

Future outlook and issues for David Drew MP to follow up

From the information you provided, David Drew will:

• Continue to debate, ask questions and carry out follow-up research in parliament

• Talk directly to appropriate government ministers about issues raised

• Talk to business organisations including the FSB and GlosFirst about issues raised

• Keep in regular contact with SDC as some of the matters discussed fall under its responsibility

• Talk in confidence to other businesses about common issues that affect the Stroud Valleys

Matters requiring further investigation:

Business rates – A considerable number of businesses questioned the value of business rates and

what the council was offering them for the moneys they paid. For example, not being able to rely

on Council waste collection was, at the very least, disappointing

Premises – More help could be made available for businesses to search for more appropriate

accommodation, as this was a key and recurring reason for companies not being able to expand.

This seems to be a long-standing problem for many companies

Planning issues – It was strongly felt that SDC could be more proactive and quicker in its response

to companies that needed to seek planning advice

Training and re-skilling needs – More than half of the businesses advised that attracting and recruiting staff with the appropriate skills needed in the workplace was a problem. This included accessing appropriate local training opportunities necessary for staff development, and upskilling was not seen to be easily achievable.

The idea of these visits was not only to gather immediate information but to begin an ongoing dialogue with local businesses so that the MP could help promote and enhance the local economy.

There remains much to celebrate in the district and it is vital to strengthen links and networks that benefit our district and the communities within the district – especially when it comes to business and education.

We will establish an anonymised email contact group so that we can circulate updated and useful information, arrange business and education network meetings, etc. In the interim, should you have any queries about these findings, wish to make further comment or have any suggestions for future meeting topics, please do not hesitate to contact david.drew.mp@parliament.uk.

Stroud’s small and medium businesses are the backbone of our local economy.

Stroud’s small and medium businesses are the backbone of our local economy.

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