Next Metro Mayor ‘must prioritise small businesses’

All four candidates running for Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor in May must put small businesses at the heart of their growth strategy, the Federation of Small Businesses says. Tony McDonough reports

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Small businesses hold the key to the city region’s future prosperity, says the FSB


Liverpool city region’s next Metro Mayor must utilise the power of small businesses to drive the post-COVID recovery, the UK’s leading small business association will say today.

All four candidates standing for the office of Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor on May 6 will today be sent a small business ‘manifesto’ for the next four years written by the Merseyside and Cheshire branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Current Metro Mayor, Labour’s Steve Rotheram, is the favourite to win the election which was delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also on the ballot will be Jade Marsden (Conservatives), Andy Corkhill (Liberal Democrats) and Gary Cargill (Green Party).

In its manifesto, the FSB will point out the city region – which covers Liverpool, Wirral, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Halton – still lags behind the UK in terms of new business create and survival despite, it says, the great strides made by the Enterprise Hub start-up support project run by The Women’s Organisation.

Michael Sandys, area leader, FSB Merseyside and Cheshire, will tell the candidates: “We are still playing catch-up. A business that starts in Liverpool city region is less likely to survive three years than in other areas of the UK (53% businesses that started in 2015, compared to 57% nationally).

“In addition, as recognised by the Combined Authority’s Industrial Strategy work, more tailored, high-intensity support should be available to growth companies. The aim should be to make Liverpool city region an irresistible place in which to both start and grow a business.”

The FSB is making six key recommendations to the candidates. They are: 

  • Making Liverpool city region a leading place to encourage a diverse profile of entrepreneurs to start and grow a business.
  • Ensuring Liverpool city region meets the transport, digital and other infrastructure needs of small businesses and their employees.
  • Supporting small businesses to embrace green technologies, become sustainable and compete in emerging renewables markets.
  • Ensuring Liverpool city region has the skills small employers need create an inclusive, productive workforce.
  • Backing small firms in their communities and supporting them to adopt ethical employment and business practices.

According to the FSB, a crucial performance gap for Liverpool city region is GVA per head, which is 74% of the UK level. This reflects lower levels of prosperity across the city region, areas of which are among the most deprived in the UK.

Michael Sandys
Michael Sandys, area leader, FSB Merseyside and Cheshire


There are employment gaps, particularly pronounced for ethnic minorities and those with disabilities, life expectancy differing by more than 25 years depending on where people are born in the city region.

And there is a significant difference in annual income between the richest and poorest households. The top 10% of earners are paid at least three times as much annually as the bottom 10%.

Mr Sandys added: “We are on the right road towards addressing these concerns, albeit amid a great deal of uncertainty as a result of COVID. It has been tremendous to be involved with the LCR Enterprise Hub / Enterprise Hub Skills, which is transforming start-up support in a city region.”

He added: “The next mayor should play to the city region’s strengths – focusing on our major assets, including the Port of Liverpool and key sector strengths, and on creating interventions and a one stop shop for all small businesses, from start-ups to growth companies and including social enterprises, to access the full range of support services that are available.

“It is important to address Liverpool city region’s comparatively low productivity levels, retain university leavers by creating more graduate jobs and build on work to boost start-up creation and support, as well as tailored services for growth companies.”

He also points out that the sectoral composition of the city region’s economy is skewed towards lower productivity sectors which, combined with lower within-sector productivity, creates productivity gaps.”

FSB says that in the most recently reported years, productivity has been consistently below the national average. In 2017, real GVA per hour was £31 in the  Liverpool city region, around 90% of the UK rate.

Critical areas identified by the FSB were international trade, digital connectivity, skills and the green agenda. It is also urging the next Metro Mayor to offer more targeted support for ethnic minority businesses and women-run firms.

Currently in the UK just 22% of small and medium sized business employers are majority women-owned. In March, The Women’s Organisation said a £1.6bn investment into supporting women by the Government could boost the UK economy by £8bn.

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