When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Light at the end of the tunnel
I was talking to Councillor David Robertson this week and when we got past the preamble, which was largely about Witney and specifically the excellence of Curry Paradise on the High Street, we got to talking about business throughout the county and some of the challenges to be faced over the next couple of years. I was really impressed with Cllr Robertson’s objective take on this.
Personally I’ve been extremely encouraged to see Oxfordshire County Council open up to the idea of partnership with local businesses. My STL Co-Director, Bill Smith, was recently co-opted to discuss the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) with David Robertson’s colleague, Cllr Keith Mitchell, and now that Oxford has been awarded LEP status we look forward to working with the council on joint initiatives for the benefit of everyone.
Traditionally Oxfordshire is a county of high employment and even now the number of people out of work is about 6% as opposed to nearly 8% nationally. Although in actual fact the number of unemployed is actually four hundred down over the past eighteen months – what is it they say about lies, damn lies and statistics!
I also realise that we’ve yet to see the fallout from local government and Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust job cuts which may well be in excess of two thousand - clearly this will have a massive impact locally. It must be very difficult at the moment if you work for the council or the PCT and you don’t really know whether you’ll have a job in a few months time.
But none of this is new and every now and then we go through a sea-change in one area or another. In the early eighties I had first hand of the miners dispute when I was an Apprentice at Didcot Power Station and at that time the subsequent closure of mines across the country was going to plunge whole communities into a depression from which they would probably never recover….except they did. In actual fact, and admittedly with government support and European money, some areas have completely re-invented themselves – in the case of Catcliffe (Yorkshire) as a Digital Hotbed.
Coming back to Oxfordshire, there is plenty of good news on the employment front throughout the county. Oxford Instruments have just increased their workforce by 10% and the Oxford Trust has just announced a £30m Cultural Centre for Science and Enterprise on the site of Macclesfield House near the City Centre. A quick flick through the jobs on this website also shows that there are opportunities across most sectors.
The county is also littered with Business, Enterprise and Innovation centres - most of which are brimming with early stage businesses, many of whom are looking to grow and recruit. For me these centres are the real key to economic recovery because they house the employers of tomorrow and it’s no coincidence that more of these centres are set to open in the coming months.
And don’t dismiss the opportunity to re-train. BT and Virgin Media are both recruiting and training people for customer facing roles – take a look at www.careersbox.co.uk – it’s brilliant!
Here at STL sales are up, profits are ahead of budget and more importantly the business barometers we use - Commercial Agents, Printers and Professionals - are all telling us that they too are busy and business is brisk. Now, either I’m in cloud cuckoo land and seriously missing something or there’s a recovery going on.
Just last week I was listening to an Economist who was met with boos of derision when he forecast two more years of doom and gloom. Sorry, I don’t get it – things are improving and fast…..believe it or not I’ve just taken a phone call from my Brother-in-Law Martyn who is in manufacturing and he said year to date sales are up 38%! Unbelievable, stick that in your pipe and smoke it Robert Peston!!
So you see, the jobs are going to be there for those unfortunate souls who find themselves leaving the public sector and (in some cases) the private sector. The jobs will look different and there will almost certainly be a performance element to the remuneration, but this is how most of us have worked for years. I don’t wish to belittle their predicament, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not the oncoming train.
David Cameron has long said that small/medium enterprises are the future of this country and Cllr. Robertson certainly endorsed this in Oxfordshire. There is also an irony in that this new spirit of ‘glasnost’ means that the smaller businesses employing ex. Public sector staff may well end up partnering with the County Council.
So anyway, the meeting with Cllr. Robertson and his colleagues went very well and in the e-mail confirming the actions, I joked that next time we should meet over a Curry at Curry Paradise. David responded immediately agreeing that it was a good idea, but pointing out that he would have to insist on paying his share – very encouraging!
All the best, Brendon
In this section
- Success is a by-product of good service
- What's the plan?
- Time for a reality check
- Good news sells
- Work, Life, Pubs & Tractors
- Banks - Venture Capitalists or providers of liquidity?
- What sets you apart?
- Inspiration, perspiration & desperation
- Some free advice – so what’s the catch?
- Finding & recruiting good people
Our top writers
In the first of a weekly blog and occasional rant, Oxfordshire based entrepreneur Brendon Cross looks at some of the challenges faced by people starting and running their own businesses.