asks Nick O’Shiel, Omagh Enterprise
Following the recent local government elections, people will be getting to know their new councillors. In all areas, elected representative and members of the public will have to embrace new geographic boundaries, form new partnerships and manage new responsibilities.
One of the joys of democracy is that the people of the region directly elect their representatives and so the link between local people and local government is grounded in the community.
Local government links, however, extend beyond their ties to the people who elect them, as similar links with local businesses and business people are essential.
This is particularly the case in the context of the newly formed councils, not least because of their extended powers in planning, local economic development and the social economy.
The Stormont Executive, as part of the reform process, is transferring new responsibilities to local government, not least in relation to local economic development.
As a result, there is a need for strong links between the new councils and the local business community, particularly in relation to supporting more new start-up, growth and social economy businesses.
Like all relationships, however, it should be a two-way process and so businesses need to talk to, and engage with, their new councils and councillors.
There is much common ground between local government and business but a number of issues stand out: economic development, job creation, and support for business.
A successful local economic development strategy will provide the framework needed to support existing businesses and attract new businesses and entrepreneurs to the area.
Such support will enable businesses to plan ahead, create more jobs and improve the quality of life for those living in and visiting the region.
Business supports such as training and mentoring programmes are vital to the development of entrepreneurs and the growth of businesses.
The new council cannot work in isolation and so there is an onus on businesses to engage with and support the development of a successful economic development strategy for the locality.
Businesses and the business community must engage and influence the shape of the region, not only for their own benefit but also for the benefit of their employees and the people who live in the area.
SO, as the new councils start work they have a responsibility to engage with local businesses but equally local businesses have a responsibility to engage with the councils.
What do you think?
Can local government and business work together?