LEADING figures from the business world and local community met at the Basingstoke offices of RSM Tenon to discuss the big issues currently affecting local firms.

Among those attending The RSM Tenon Basingstoke Business Leaders’ Forum was North West Hampshire MP and Government Chief Whip Sir George Young and Bank of England agent Chris Piper, who both took feedback to the Government and the Monetary Policy Committee.

Among the issues discussed was the influence the Olympics had in getting the UK out of recession, and how the economy is faring.

The RSM Tenon Business Barometer – a quarterly survey carried out by YouGov of senior management in SMEs– was also discussed as it found that 71 per cent of respondents in the South thought the Olympics will have no lasting impact on their businesses.

Highlighting that consumer confidence is still low, Nick Parker, managing partner at RSM Tenon Basingstoke, said: “Consumers are still price-sensitive and consumer confidence is still weak. This is having an impact on many sectors.

“This is not helped by the negative national press which seems to encourage resentment for success.

“During the Olympics, the national press was very upbeat and this created a really positive attitude among the public.”

There was a general agreement among the group that SMEs play a critical role in the continued recovery of the UK economy, and Government policies must support businesses that create jobs for the public.

Rafi Razzak chairman of IT provider Centerprise International, said: “SMEs are the heart of the UK economy. Our biggest concern is the Government’s direction and I am interested to hear how they are going to stimulate the SME sector.”

Sir George said: “SMEs are on the Government’s agenda and are seen to be key to the future growth of the UK economy.

“There are a number of documents being addressed by the Government including the ‘growth bill’ document regarding the Local Enterprise Partnership.”

Andrew Finney, managing director of relocation specialists HCR Group and a member of the Enterprise M3 LEP, said: “We need to raise the profile of the LEP in the business community. It provides us with a real opportunity as businesses are in control. Businesses need to engage with the LEP as a way to influence central Government.”

He pointed out that the LEP was instrumental in the allocation of over £4million to improve Junction 6 on the M3.

“There is money available to bid for new projects, not just for local Government, but for all businesses,” he said.

Jonathan Pender, a director at Phillips Solicitors, picked up on the thorny issue of SMEs struggling to access funding, “Sensible lending is being stopped by the banks and sound businesses are being turned down for funding,” he said. “It’s not surprising that SMEs do not feel that banks are on their side.”

In response, Mike Loftus, a former banker and now RSM Tenon business development consultant, said: “The banks now need the right deals to be supported by well-rounded detailed business proposals.”

On the issue of employment, Liz Jackson, managing director of B2B telemarketing company Great Guns Marketing, said: “It appears that the recession may have created a more positive work ethic in employees.

“People know they need to perform to stay in work. They don’t take having a job for granted.”