Members of a Cheshire-based employer support organisation got the chance to have a frank and open discussion with the Chancellor George Osborne at a business event in Knutsford on Friday (5th April). The Tatton MP agreed to the post-Budget round-table event at the Forum of Private Business's Cheshire HQ, where he faced a series of questions from a panel of small business owners. The panel, handpicked from the Forum's membership to represent a variety of sectors, included a financial expert, the owner of a logistics firm, a computer software developer, a new start-up business owner, and a food retail distributor. Topics broached ranged from access to finance and what the government was doing to help SMEs with reference to Funding for Lending, business rates, the Heseltine Report into growth, and on a more local level issues around the Cheshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). "Our members had lots of pertinent questions for George and he was happy to tackle them all head on," said the Forum's Chief Executive, Phil Orford, who chaired the meeting. "He gave some really interesting answers and our members all went away with a lot to digest. On business rates for example he was receptive to the idea of a freeze. He was also really interested to hear thoughts on the weakness of the pound and how this was affecting small businesses who import and export. "He also spoke about the regional LEPs, and stressed the need for strong local leaders to ensure areas could take advantage of proposed new powers. With 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships the need has never been more vital for regions to have dedicated business people willing to champion the needs of the local business community. "He said if businesses can be harnessed by LEPs then areas will stand a much greater chance of securing the funding they need to grow and the best way of ensuring this can happen is through strong and locally-based direction. "Overall it was a really constructive meeting and we'll certainly be looking to host the Chancellor again in the future," he added. Following the meeting Mr Osborne said: "The Forum is a strong voice for business and entrepreneurship. I'm really grateful to its Chief Executive Phil Orford for bringing together a collection of new and established firms to talk with me about what more we can do to support the economy."
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