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How Can My Local Council Help?

A brief overview of the type of support that you may be able to find on the end of a phone line in your area.

Local councils have a wide range of services that can be of use to someone starting up in business.

Below you will find a brief overview of the type of support that you can find on the end of a phone line in your area. (Please note that not all councils will offer all of these services.)

Business Support

The business service and economic development departments in local councils are a good place to start when looking for advice and support in setting up your business. There are often several sources of help in your local area and the local team will know what is on offer and can signpost you to one or more relevant organisations.

Local economic information

Local council websites can provide you with a wealth of local economy information to help with your business planning. Census statistics are often supplemented by other research that has been done in the area.

Business Libraries

Some local libraries contain business sections that have business directories, company reports, information on business legislation, how-to guides and patent information.

Business Directories

Looking to find new customers and get company names in your area? Local councils often hold directories of local companies, which are available to help you do business locally.

Doing Business with the Council

Remember that your local council is often also a potential customer. The procurement department will be able to provide information on tenders and will also give you advice on what is required of you as a supplier to local government.

Grant finding

Local councils will often be able to point you in the direction of funding sources. This can vary from training and research and development grants, through to local business angel finance networks.


Some councils manage enterprise centres which offer flexible terms to start-up businesses, and they will have details of other such premises that are in the local area. They will provide you with details of local commercial agents, and often maintain a local property database. Finally, the property or asset management departments will be able to provide details of available council properties

Planning & Building Control

Whether you are running your business from home or acquiring premises, your local planning team can help you understand what is permitted. Commercial premises have a use class which means that they can only be used for certain activities, and you need to check what use class your business would require before signing leases. Uses can be changed, but it is best to enquire early and get advice from the planners. The building control team can advise you on building regs and you should contact them when you are looking at developments to premises.

Business Rates

Also known as Non-Domestic Rates, these are charged on commercial premises. Contact your local team to find out what charges your business will incur, and also to get information on Small Business Rate Relief.

Public Protection

A variety of services generally fit into the public protection team, including environmental health, trading standards and commercial waste. The teams can provide you with information and training relating to requirements for food hygiene, risk assessments, animal welfare and workplace safety to name but a few. Some councils also have fair trading schemes to help local consumers identify good traders, and it is worth checking how to become accredited and gain access to new customers


The licensing team will be able to inform you of any licenses that your business might require, such as street trading, taxi or entertainment licenses. So to access any of these services get in touch with your local council today.

Thanks very much to Clare Seek of Portsmouth City Council for this article.

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