Well, our economy is growing, unemployment is dropping, even Scotland doesn't want to leave. And for Croydon the good news keeps on coming, The past twenty years of under investment and lack of leadership is being rectified. The small business community is buoyant right? Investing in the future to maximise their opportunities? Sadly not.
The reasons -it is not that we don't believe, after the developments are finished, that Croydon will have a thriving small business community but rather, in getting there, the vast swathes of capital flowing into the Borough will act like a tidal wave, clearing out the incumbents, to be replaced with a new generation, paying significantly more rent, and probably originating from outside the Borough.
It will be great in the end, but will the intervening carnage be worth it? What about the group of local dispossessed families damaged in the process. They were the ones who have continued to take the risk of running a business in the Borough, investing their savings and putting the family home’s on the line, whilst the previous leaders of our community twiddled their thumbs: choosing politics over development! Is it any wonder that those who have lived through that period are now so reticent to further gamble on the next generation of promises.
It is not just the recent Council change that cause the uncertainty. The small business community of Croydon has two further major influencers
The Whitgift Foundation is a large property owner in the Borough tasked with educating the young and looking after the old. Both of these very laudable aims require funding, and The foundation Trustees will be expected to maximise those funds whenever they can.
The mouth-watering amount of money about to flow into the area is a massive opportunity for them. But, where one person wins another looses. Higher returns for them will be higher rents for tenants and higher risks for business owners. What is good for the foundation is likely to be bad for the small businesses community. If you were offered Mr and Mrs Small Business or Waitrose as a tenant, who would you choose?
For HMRC, the country's financial woes have resulted in a strengthening of their powers to maximise collections. And it is HMRC now that decides who owes what. Soon they may even be able to remove funds from your bank account directly. I am not suggesting that Small Businesses should be let off their tax bill, but their problems begin when they are left with the stark choice of paying their staff or last month’s tax. One will give your business a chance at survival and the other will destroy it. Which would you choose?
There are other factors, but there should be no surprise at the present negativity. Don’t get me wrong, the future is bright, but it will remain far off and only really enjoyed by others until our local leadership makes a conscious decision to both get on with it and also to ensure that the treatment does not kill the patient.
Jeremy Frost is a Licenced Insolvency Practitioner at the Frost Group Limited, based in Airport House, Purley Way. He is also chairman of the Croydon Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, an organisation with national reach with over 200,000 members.
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