Business Secretary Vince Cable praised Harrogate district’s ‘robust’ safety-net of independent companies for their ability to survive the recession.
Speaking to the Advertiser series at the Met Club event held in Rudding Park Hotel, Harrogate, Mr Cable expressed his admiration for the town’s smaller businesses - but admitted that more needed to be done to help them withstand the financial crisis.
“If the business is still there, it has survived three or four tough years. They are pretty robust companies,” said Mr Cable.
“Some of the banks have been reckless in the boom period and not all the banks are now willing to take the risk, so smaller companies are suffering.
“But we are negotiating with private partners and we are looking at the particular problem of smaller and medium-sized businesses. It’s only part of a much, much bigger picture.”
Mr Cable announced at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton last month that the Government will set aside £1bn to establish a British business bank to help smaller independent businesses.
But Mr Cable admitted that smaller businesses may still struggle: “It is not enough money,” he said. “We are working alongside private businesses to try and get more money going into smaller businesses. But there is still a big problem.”
In addition to ploughing Government money into new schemes, the Business Secretary is also supporting the ‘Neighbourhood Area’ plan in Ripon, which aims to put power back into the hands of local people. Harrogate Borough Council launched a consultation last month on whether Ripon should be designated a Neighbourhood Area, allowing local people to guide the future development of the city.
“It was one of the first issues on our agenda,” said Mr Cable, referring to the Government’s Localism Act 2011, which overhauled 40 years of legislation that transferred power away from the city council.
“It is quite important to try to give people more control and give communities more freedom. But they will still have the support of central Government. There is a national dimension to it.”
And despite a public backlash, Mr Cable remained committed to his support of lifting the tuition fee cap after forming a Coalition Government in 2010. “The brutal truth of the matter is is that something needed to be done because of the financial crisis. We needed to do something to stop universities cutting places. It’s not perfect but it’s better than just abandoning them.”