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Cabinet member hears from rural businesses




We were pleased the new B&NES Council Cabinet member responsible for economic development accepted our invitation to talk about his role and to listen to the views and opinions of local business owners who make a significant contribution to the economy of the district.


Councillor Paul Roper, himself a businessman with more than 30 years experience, said he had a very wide portfolio and was impressed with the wide variety of business activity in the Valley.


There were mixed views on Council activity. One member had enjoyed a positive experience with a planning matter, another had been well supported with a grant application whilst a third suggested they would like to see the Council less involved and not so picky with what people are trying to achieve.


Skills shortages were highlighted as a serious issue and it was noted that employers were increasing wages to deter staff from taking on other jobs. Another agreed there was a shortage of staff, partly caused by people in their fifties who are opting out of work and the pressures of commuting. They didn’t think Brexit had been to blame, as businesses had had plenty of time to deal with changes, but other things, such as the Covid epidemic, wars and the exchange rates had affected things.


Transport was a big issue of concern, from a lack of public transport to charges on non-compliant vehicles which was an extra cost for businesses who needed to go into Bath and Bristol for their work. It also had an impact on recruitment, because staff needed a car to get to their jobs in the Chew Valley and see clients elsewhere.


Paul Roper said there were undeniable issues of climate change, so it was right to promote active travel where it was practical. But he conceded it was a complex issue and particularly difficult in rural areas where people were reliant on cars, partly as a result of a long-term underinvestment in public transport provision.


If you would like to know more about Chew Valley Chamber of Commerce please visit chewvalleychamber.co.uk

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