Following the pandemic and current economic challenges facing the UK, Local Authorities are increasingly focused on safeguarding future revenue going forward and supporting local businesses will be instrumental. A report by the LGA notes “Councils now have more contact with businesses than ever before and maintaining this relationship will deliver more benefits for the future. How councils capitalise on this positive action will be essential to cementing relationships with businesses going forward.”
Profiling your local business landscape
A key element of this is being able to profile and really know your local business landscape. We’ve worked with one Local Authority to consolidate all the data they hold on local businesses; captured from business rates, planning, licensing and business engagement to provide an in-depth profile and breakdown of those businesses. Using a performance dashboard they now have instant access to data such as business survival rates (broken down by area and business type), number of new startups and closures within any given time frame and a whole host of other management data.
Supporting business startups
Using this data they are now able to encourage and support business startups by providing indepth guidance on the best areas to locate to. They do this by analysing deprivation levels by postcode, success rates and longevity of similar businesses in that area and providing general guidance on factors like footfall.
They have access to a list of all empty properties available for leasing or purchase within an area, the property size and the rateable value of that property so can advise on some of the costs associated with the startup. This, combined with giving guidance on the most likely area a business will succeed in, provides an invaluable service particularly to those businesses who may be new to the area and don’t necessarily have local knowledge.
Proactively identifying struggling businesses
They can also now proactively target struggling businesses using credit ratings and other data to identify the most ‘at risk’ businesses and using this information to reach out and identify what help and support can be provided to that business. This approach is helping to ensure that those that need the support most, get access to it.
There is also the opportunity to spot trends and patterns, for example businesses operating in one district may have a higher instance of lasting less than five years in comparison to another district where business longevity is much higher.
Using unique datasets to address potential problem areas
Consolidating other unique datasets such as food standards inspection data they have been able to proactively contact businesses issued with sub-standard food ratings to offer advice on how to raise those ratings, reducing the chances of imminent business closure. Similarly they have looked at and factored in important environmental data to identify flood risks in their area and to categorise which postcodes are based on flood plains. If they have any imminent flood warnings come in for a specific area they can assess the potential damage it is likely to cause and proactively offer direct assistance, whether that’s with evacuations or the provision of sandbags etc.
Having access to this level of detail has not only provided numerous outreach and engagement opportunities for the business partnerships team, it enabled them to do instant analysis on the implications of the draft list and revaluations of businesses in their area. It also supports any FOI requests related to business engagement activity and statistics. Most importantly the information can be used to help support bids for funding in growth and regeneration projects by having tangible data to back up those requests.
In conclusion the more information a Local Authority has at their fingertips about the businesses operating in their region, the more support they can offer existing businesses as well as helping shape the future of investment and growth in their locality.