Lismore joins pilot project to help small businesses

LISMORE City Council will join three other NSW councils in a pilot initiative to make councils more supportive of small business.

Announced by Minister for Small Business Katrina Hodkinson on Tuesday night, the "Small Business Friendly Councils" initiative is the product of a partnership between the NSW Small Business Commissioner Yasmin King and the NSW Business Chamber.

Under the project, councils will develop a "small business friendly charter" which outlines key principles for local government maintaining a good working relationship with the sector.

They will use an online evaluation tool to identify strengths and weaknesses in their relationship with small business and look at ways to improve engagement.

Councils will also be ranked in a tiered recognition system, with the intention of visibly rewarding councils identified as providing quality support for small business.

Northern Rivers NSW Business Chamber regional manager John Murray said more than 50% of complaints from small businesses were concerned with local government.

He said the initiative was aimed at both "process improvement" and cultural change.

"Small business is the big employer in the Northern Rivers - the greater we can get this relationship working between local government and small business the better it's going to be."

Small Business Commissioner Yasmin King said the program sought to recognise that not all councils engaged with small businesses in the same way - and that some were more effective than others.

"There is now an opportunity for councils that are willing to make small businesses a priority to provide leadership in the development of 'Small Business Friendly' best practice," Ms King said.

"Where councils are proactively supporting and engaging with small business, the local community and economy will be thriving, more vibrant and more resilient."

The pilot program is expected to commence early next year and by mid-2014 it is hoped it can be rolled out to all 152 councils in NSW.

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