Business Support in Merton by Councillor Stephen Alambritis, SME Working Group Co-Chair and Leader of Merton Council

07 January 2016

In our latest blog, Councillor Stephen Alambritis, SME Working Group Co-Chair and Leader of Merton Council, talks about Merton's work to become "the most business friendly borough in the UK".

After a career spanning over 25 years as the voice of the small business sector I turned my hand to leading a council, and what do I get?  I get told mine must be the most business friendly borough in the UK! Well I am giving it my best shot and this blog hopefully does justice to Merton Council as the place that means business. Oh and look out for that recognition towards the end of this blog and “No, I was not on the judging panel”.

Merton is renowned as an excellent place in London for starting-up, locating and doing business. There are nearly 11,000 businesses in the borough providing just under 60,000 jobs. Merton is an important base and the headquarters to many national and international companies such as Lidl, Rymans, Robert Dyas, Domestic & General, ZipCars, White Light Capsticks, Carclo Plastics, WSM, URS/AECOM. We are also the Trade Union HQ’ for CWU. As a measure of Merton’s international reputation Close Brothers, the global banking group recently moved its Headquarters into Wimbledon, relocating its 600 staff into the borough. Merton is also the base for a number of dynamic small and medium-size businesses such as Geeks Ltd, Chrisanne, Wimbledon Brewery, John Desmond Ltd, Wimbletech amongst others.

The borough has a range of office, retail and industrial space to meet most business requirements.  Wimbledon, Raynes Park, Morden, Colliers Wood and Mitcham all provide an excellent base for retail, business and financial services, creative/tech, restaurants and leisure companies.  Industrial estates - particularly Willow Lane and South Wimbledon Business Area - are the locations of some of the UK’s leading companies in manufacturing, construction and the environmental sector. Merton has a highly skilled workforce to meet every business need and, in addition, has excellent transport links to other parts of London and the UK. Its close proximity to the A3 and M25, as well as Heathrow and Gatwick airports, gives businesses easy access to EU and international markets.

In response to the challenges facing SMEs, the council has intensified its support to them – through a range of Council-funded programmes aimed at providing small businesses with the quality advice and support needed to develop and grow. These business support services include: business loan schemes; Merton Business Support Service; business rate relief support, shop front improvement grants; support for industrial estates and, town centres – and a programme to attract new companies and support the retention of existing firms.

We also have Merton Chambers of Commerce (MCC) on our patch and this group must be one of the most active of all chambers with a year round programme of support and service to Merton’s entrepreneurs. The Council works very closely with MCC and indeed with the Business Improvement District (BID) for Wimbledon called “Love Wimbledon” and we also have one of the few BIDS on an industrial estate namely “Willow BID” which is on the Willow Lane Industrial Estate.

And so to that recognition and I promise I had nothing to do with this!

The council’s support for small businesses was recognised by my former employer, The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in their joint awards with London Councils. In 2014 these prestigious awards marked out Merton as the “Best All-Round Business Friendly Council in London” and in 2015 for having the “Best Programme of Support for Small Businesses”

No pressure then for 2016 onwards!!

We'd love to hear about what other boroughs are doing for businesses. Please contact us if you want us to feature what your local authority is doing.