This morning I was at a Roundtable event hosted by the Federation of Small Businesses, at Epsilon House.
With many local businesses and Ipswich-based entrepreneurs represented at the table, it was a good opportunity to hear directly about the challenges they currently face.
We talked about how to encourage shoppers and footfall in the town centre. Feeling safe and comfortable on the high-streets is central to this. The local business leaders here agreed that anti-social behaviour is keeping some people away. Following my meeting with the Minister for Crime and Policing yesterday, this is something I will be continuing to keep a close eye on.
Of course the cost of living situation was raised, with impacts on small businesses at the forefront of the agenda. I heard about how fuel costs are affecting our small businesses, as well as costs of other raw materials.
I also heard about the current situation with staffing. Some of the businesses here told me that they were advertising for positions that they weren’t able to fill. At the moment, young people in Ipswich often seek opportunities elsewhere – like apprenticeships in London. We need to be supporting young people in Ipswich to take on local apprenticeships and gain the right skills here, which match up to the jobs on offer.
I’ll be speaking at an event this afternoon about how to make the most of the East of England’s economic opportunities. Skills and apprenticeships for young people in Ipswich is definitely something on my agenda and I will be mentioning it this afternoon.