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Chamber CEO lobbies Somerset Council on behalf of businesses

Somerset Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Emma Rawlings, has written to Somerset Council’s economic leaders to fight the corner for the county’s businesses ahead of their crunch meeting to set their annual budget on February 20.

The authority has declared a financial emergency due to the huge scale of cuts and savings it needs to make to balance the books.

Ms Rawlings letter states:

I am writing to you to highlight the critical economic challenges facing Somerset businesses. These challenges have been accumulating over a number of years and urgently need both immediate and decisive action.

Somerset Chamber of Commerce is aware the vast majority of these challenges are a result of national and international pressures, well beyond the boundaries of Somerset. The financial crisis faced by Somerset Council has only intensified the urgency to ensure comprehensive support for our businesses, which serve as the economic heartbeat of our communities.

I would ask you to make businesses a priority in the immediate decisions that you are having to face – from education and training to grants and funding and the green economy.

While inflation remains the top concern, particularly for sectors more exposed to economic shocks like hospitality and retail, this is being exacerbated by trade barriers with the EU, ongoing worker shortages and a lack of clarity from central Government.

Businesses are increasingly desperate for a clear, long-term strategy which delivers on infrastructure, trade, skills and green innovation to grow the economy. While responsibility for this predominantly lies at the door of Number 10, Somerset Council has a key role to play.

The authority must ensure sustainable employment and training opportunities for our future generations – without this they will seek a better, more prosperous life outside of their home county. We know there is a cross-sector skills shortage both within Somerset and the wider UK, so training and skills must be near the top of your agenda when you set your budget.

The council must also help businesses to save money by embracing green innovation and lead the way on business opportunities while trade with the EU remains a challenge.

Somerset Council and the former district authorities have done much to support businesses through initiatives such as sector-specific grant funding, business mentoring, the creation of a business hub, managed workspaces and the attraction of inward investment. It would be beyond comprehension for all that good work to be lost rather than built on to secure Somerset’s economic future.

This sits alongside the threat to public services and community facilities due to the absence of a comprehensive and sustainable funding settlement for local government. This situation poses a severe risk to the very fabric that renders our communities to be unique and vibrant. And a successful business community is a fundamental part of that fabric.

It is imperative that swift measures are taken to secure the wellbeing of our businesses to enable them to continue playing a pivotal role in sustaining the economic vitality of our communities. Businesses are at the heart of the county’s economic engine and require additional, immediate support to navigate through these challenging times.

Somerset Chamber of Commerce stands alongside Somerset Council in its call for sustainable funding to safeguard essential public services, business support and community facilities for the residents of Somerset. It is my hope that, through collaborative efforts, we can mitigate the adverse effects of these economic challenges and work towards a resilient and prosperous future for Somerset.

I remain optimistic about the positive impact that coordinated action can bring to our businesses and communities and look forward to working with you to support those businesses and communities in the future.


Emma Rawlings

Chief Executive

Somerset Chamber of Commerce



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