(a) To receive a presentation from G Borrelli of LB First on a proposal in support of local businesses.
(b) To receive a report on a business directory and consider the recommendations contained therein.
(c) To receive an update report on the Town Centre Promotion campaign and consider the recommendations contained therein.
(a) The Committee received a presentation from Gennaro Borelli of LB First to request Town Council funding and support with a proposal to promote independent businesses in the town by producing a digital platform. This would allow information to be stored with links to business’ own websites, or if a business did not have their own website an e-commerce platform could be provided to facilitate online ordering and deliveries. It was felt that with winter approaching and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, developing such a platform would provide a collective shopfront allowing residents to buy online if they were unable to come into the town to shop.
A question was raised regarding how much funding would be needed and what time frame was anticipated. It was confirmed that approximately £5,500 would be needed in total to provide a website with e-commerce functionality and to be operational as soon as possible. A request was also made for assistance from town council staff to help gather the information needed to set up the website.
Although the Committee fully supported the concept of the proposal, concerns were raised regarding the complexity of the task and the work and skills needed to keep the information current and up-to-date. The Town Clerk confirmed he fully supported the idea but that there was no capacity within town council staff to offer assistance at present without employing another person. The use of volunteers to help with the initial data gathering was suggested.
Whilst supportive of the principle, the Committee agreed that more detailed scoping work was needed to determine the level of interest from independent businesses. It was proposed that initial funding of £1,000 be provided to support LB First in undertaking a feasibility study and further scoping work. Additional funding of up to £5,000 could be considered by Committee upon receipt of the more detailed scoping report and breakdown of the project. This could be provided to the next appropriate meeting of either this committee or the Policy and Finance Committee. If necessary an additional meeting could be scheduled to ensure the project was not unnecessarily delayed.
i) That an initial £1,000 of a possible £6,000 be made available to LB First as soon as possible from earmarked reserves (970/9026), to fund further scoping work and feasibility study for a “Digital High Street” web portal for independent businesses.
ii) That consideration of remaining funding (up to a further £5,000) from the same earmarked reserve be made by either this Committee or the Policy and Finance Committee upon presentation of a detailed report giving scoping details and a breakdown of how further monies will be spent. The report to be presented to the soonest appropriate meeting.
(b) The Committee received and considered a report on the creation of a web-based SME business directory. Once set up the directory should be self-managed with no additional involvement of the Town Council. The suggestion had arisen as a result of feedback from local businesses which were not necessarily town centre or retail based, seeking support.
It was noted that as with the previous web portal proposal, the directory would require the individual businesses to undertake to keep their pages up to date and current.
i) That up to £375 be made available from the Business Support annual budget (101/4510), to assist with the launch of the electronic directory for small to medium sized enterprises (SME) upon receipt of a satisfactory scoping document detailing what is being delivered, the timeframe of delivery activity and how ongoing support and maintenance will be managed.
ii) To allocate up to £300 from the Business Support annual budget (101/4510), to contract the services of the same illustrator who completed the Town Centre Logo to create a logo in similar branding style for the SME Directory
(c) The Committee received and considered an update report on the Town Centre Promotion campaign.
A request was made for a Keeping It Local Banner to be put by the bus stops in West Street to confirm the town is open for business.
RESOLVED to note the report.