Earlier this year the South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils commissioned a Business and Innovation Strategy (BIS) to support the small and medium enterprise (SME) business sector in the two districts. SO Business would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and thank you for participating in our research and sharing your views with us.
Your insight has given the councils a greater appreciation and understanding of the barriers, challenges and opportunities SMEs face. The final BIS report is now available here. It highlights the outcomes of the research, including:
- Echoing county, region and UK wide trends, 99.8 per cent of enterprises in South Oxfordshire are SMEs. Accounting for 82 per cent of all employment in the district, the SME community is expected to drive much of the predicted job growth over the next five years – between 2200 and 7200 new jobs by 2021.
- The majority of SMEs employ fewer than 10 employees.
- The most common sectors include professional services, wholesale and retail, construction, and information and communication technology.
- The most common issues raised relate to difficulties in accessing suitable premises at an affordable price; attracting and retaining skilled employees; and accessibility issues associated with congestion and gaps in key infrastructure including access to high speed broadband. The rural nature of the districts also means that (public) transport provision and infrastructure is a particular concern.
- Local SMEs have strong potential for growth. For most SMEs, this is expected to start with turnover growth, followed by workforce and premises growth.
- The councils and partners have an important role to play in helping SMEs to overcome barriers to growth that have been identified.
The BIS report recommends a series of practical steps to maximise the impact of the council’s business support interventions. The council has considered the recommendations and has produced the BIS Action Plan 2017 to 2020 which outlines how the council will support businesses to grow and contribute to our vibrant economy through four key actions:
- Superfast broadband – helping your business work smarter through improved access to superfast broadband
- Business space – ensuring that there is sufficient space for your business to grow
- Skills and employment – supporting businesses with skills and employment issues
- Business support and communication – improving our engagement with businesses to meet their needs
The Action Plan will officially be launched on 9 January 2018 at the Old Counting House in Wallingford. You are most welcome to attend to learn more about how the council and SO Business team will support businesses, the exciting 2018 event and workshop programme, and how you can be involved.
A key action is to increase business support and communication. To achieve this, the SO Business website will be refreshed in the new year to provide better signposting of the support available to businesses. The fortnightly newsletter has also been refreshed to contain more relevant information. If you have not already done so, you can register to receive the newsletter on the homepage.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to share your views with the council. Your insights will help the council to provide the right type and level of support to businesses .
Please do get in contact with the SO Business team if you or your network would like to learn more about the support available and how we can work together to grow our local economy.