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Building up local growth

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A concerted focus on promoting economic growth is centre stage for Surrey CC

The county currently generates more than £30bn annually for the UK economy – more than cities like Birmingham and Leeds – and has the potential to grow to over £50bn by 2030.

It is also home to many multi-national businesses as well as a very large number of small and medium sized enterprises that often operate in niche markets or supply our high value business sectors.

We’re lucky that doing the right thing for Surrey also means doing the right thing for the country and some of the best opportunities for growth in the short and medium term can be found here.

Against that background, growth has not always been the focus. Indeed, historically the council saw its role as primarily about managing the consequences of a strong and successful economy.

No longer. Congestion, skills and housing are all big issues that impact on the competitive position of Surrey and the south-east as a whole.

So we have become far more directly involved in promoting a smart approach to stimulating growth by focusing on high value, knowledge driven sectors, skills and innovation and helping more residents, particularly young people, into jobs.

These tough economic times mean it is essential the links with both small and large companies are reinforced to help Surrey firms flourish economically.

The BuildSurrey website is very much part of this and our efforts to ensure that 60% of our spending on goods and services goes to local businesses.

It lets firms pitch for building and repair work from the council, all its main contractors and others in the public sector. Already more than 500 businesses have registered following a series of events to explain how the site works and provide advice about winning deals.

Since BuildSurrey went live in January, local firms have won 31 contracts through the site, amounting to £1.5m, and its success helped us earn a government award for being among the top 10 authorities in the country to do business with.

In addition, the site features the contact details of each firm and a brief business summary so that other contractors can get in touch quickly and easily with other offers of work.

Following on from its successful launch, we’re now developing a site to ensure businesses get the skilled workforce they need to thrive and young people hit the ground running in the workplace.

Supply2Surrey is being created as part of the council’s aim of boosting the job prospects of 500 young people by next April and it follows the success of a scheme to incentivise businesses to hire more than 260 apprentices in less than a year.

Both these innovative sites recognise that businesses are the lifeblood of every community and our role is to help them do what they do best – create jobs and promote growth – and I’m sure that the firms using them will continue to go from strength to strength.

Peter Martin (Con) is Surrey CC’s deputy leader

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