Danny Thorpe, Leader of Greenwich Council speaks to business owners facing challenges to build their companies

This is particularly true in the Greenwich borough, where the number of businesses has grown by an impressive 50 per cent since 2010, to almost 11,500.

I often learn more from a five-minute conversation than I do reading a 50-page report, so I’ve been speaking to business owners and staff face-to-face about the challenges they have to overcome to build their companies.

Cllr. Danny Thorpe, Greenwich council leader

Last week I visited a variety of businesses, from a West African takeaway in Woolwich to a bakery in Greenwich, and yesterday 100 business owners came to the town hall to discuss what they need from us to help them grow and thrive.

The council does a lot to help, like arranging pavement table and chair licences for cafes, and organising training on how to use social media and the internet to promote services.

I am proud to say that partnership working between the borough’s business community and the council is a key priority and one my cabinet colleagues and I are keen to build on.

As I talk to businesses, I become increasingly familiar with the number of operating challenges many of them face.

While business survival is strong in this borough, lots of employers are worried about Brexit. The uncertainty they have about their ability to keep and recruit staff, and the potential increased cost of sourcing materials and equipment are a particular concern.

Despite massive cuts to our budget, the council continues to make significant investments in helping to create the right environment for businesses.

Master plans have been established to shape the development of our town centres – improving public realm, creating new homes and developing the transport infrastructure.

This Saturday, Greenwich town centre will be transformed into a car free zone, with local businesses opening into the street, activities for children, live music and street food stalls.

It’s also a chance for our transport team to speak to visitors about our long term-vision for a cleaner, greener, safer town centre. Plans which we will develop over the coming year.

We have also started talking to local residents, parents and pupils around five primary schools which have asked to become the sites of the borough’s first School Streets.

The roads outside the school gates will be car free during pick up and drop off times – making it safer for children and parents to walk and cycle to school, reducing local air pollution.

On another transport-related note, Transport for London’s (TfL) consultation on changes to local bus routes launches this week.

As I mentioned in my last column, these changes could seriously impact residents in our borough and beyond, so I would urge everyone to take a look at the consultation and tell TfL how they might be affected.

Finally, the schools are all back now after the summer holidays. As I wrote last time round, schools are under real pressure because of changes to how they are funded.

Schools have had to cut the number of teaching assistants, support staff and even remove teaching posts to balance budgets.

Teachers have told me about the effect this is having, but I still want to hear from more people, particularly parents – so that we can arm ourselves with real local issues as we lobby Government to make changes to the funding system.

Email your stories to me at leaders-office-admin@royalgreenwich.gov.uk.

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