Alex Lunn: City should do more for business

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As the Creative Exchange opens its doors to new businesses, Alex Lunn argues that more needs to be done to help young entrepreneurs

THERE are many reasons why I want to see Edinburgh doing more to help small businesses.

Firstly, both my parents set up their own businesses. Coming from traditional working class backgrounds this was a real struggle for them in the 1980s with high interest rates. They got there but it was tough. Another reason is that with private sector jobs not being as plentiful as they were ten years ago and the government shedding jobs, opportunities are becoming few and far between. A constituent and tattoo artist told me he was looking to set himself up in a shop – sadly lack of finance and premises were stopping him. Frankly it shouldn’t stop him or the thousands of other people who want to be their own boss either.

With this in mind I was delighted recently to take a tour with my Economy Committee Colleagues of the new Creative Exchange in Leith, below. Sadly my enthusiasm was curbed at the front door. The Exchange looks good but asking small businesses to pay for a desk and good internet access seemed to me to be a wasted opportunity. Especially considering for the price of the most expensive membership at the Exchange you could buy a good tablet device which also gives you internet access in hundreds of locations throughout the city.

I had my doubts that a budding entrepreneur would see this as good value when money is tight. In my view the funding provided by the council, Edinburgh College and Creative Scotland could and should have been better spent on more practical support.

With banks being reluctant to lend, part of the money could have been used to boost grants to prospective entrepreneurs. We could have actually bought laptops or tablets and leased them virtually free.

We need to grow business and jobs, which means (like new entrepreneurs) getting the best value for our money, the last thing we need are vanity projects that waste funds and offer no practical support.

• Councillor Alex Lunn represents Edinburgh Labour in the Craigentinny and Duddingston ward