Communication by media leaks not the right strategy

Wednesday May 31st 2017

Edinburgh City Deal

Full details of the projects proposed by the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal must be published now to allow local businesses to participate in its success and plan ahead. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling for detail to be shared following new media speculation about the proposed City Region Deal not funding additional trams provision for Edinburgh. The business group suggests that, after two years of negotiations, business owners and taxpayers should no longer have to rely on media leaks as their only source of information on the deal.

A consortium of council leaders from Fife, Edinburgh, West Lothian, East Lothian, Midlothian and Scottish Borders got together to write a detailed £1bn infrastructure spending proposal for the UK and Scottish Governments almost two years ago in September 2015. Detail on what projects make up the plan have remained secret, with a steady stream of speculation and media leaks being the only source of information. FSB is now calling for full details of the plan’s projects and an update on negotiations to be communicated publicly.

Prior to the local government Elections, and in its response to the Scottish Parliament City Region Deals Enquiry, FSB called for all of these deals to have an independent small business champion embedded in their decision making committees. A small business champion would provide greater transparency and ensure local businesses were able to benefit from the opportunities that arise from the deal’s spending.

In its submission to the enquiry, the small business lobby group stated: “FSB has been underwhelmed by the efforts made by City Deals to communicate with their small business community. This is exceptionally disappointing given that these businesses are a significant part of regional and local economies. Communication has also generally been poor, both in relation to the development of deals as well as implementation. In particular, local firms and citizens appeared to have few opportunities, if any, to lend their input and expertise at the crucial project identification stage.”

Gordon Henderson, FSB Senior Development Manager said: “This City Region Deal will be a very big deal for local economies and small business owners throughout the south east of Scotland, not just in Edinburgh. Business owners need to be able to plan ahead to take advantage of the £1bn infrastructure spending proposed for the region and cannot be expected to rely on rumour and speculation when making their major decisions.”

“We are relying on these people to grow their businesses and create jobs as a result of this additional spending but they have no idea what projects will be taking place locally. It is time to treat them with some respect and share the detail of all the projects. The deal being negotiated now was conceived two years ago, we need to consider if all of the projects are still relevant and appropriate for today’s fast moving economy. Local business owners in the Borders, Fife, Edinburgh and the Lothians will be well placed to answer that.”

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