Local elections 2014: What are key issues for Barking and Dagenham business leaders?

CEO of DPB Ltd Ishrat Sharif at her workplace.

CEO of DPB Ltd Ishrat Sharif at her workplace. - Credit: Archant

As this year’s local elections get closer the sight of candidates canvassing on doorsteps will become more common.

Jason McFarlane, Manager Barry Turner and Glen Knapp from Mecca Bingo in Dagenham.

Jason McFarlane, Manager Barry Turner and Glen Knapp from Mecca Bingo in Dagenham. - Credit: Archant

But it’s not just homeowners who hold the key to power in Barking and Dagenham. Getting the vote of local businesses can prove crucial for developing the borough’s economy heading into the coming term.

Co-owner of Boleyn Steve Smith

Co-owner of Boleyn Steve Smith - Credit: Archant

While it might seem natural all companies want the same things from their council, in fact Barking and Dagenham’s businesses are concerned about a range of issues.

The physical appearance of an area can be critical in bringing in investment – who’d want to work in a run-down town centre? – and keeping an area well maintained can also have practical benefits for companies.

Steve Smith, co-owner of Boleyn Recovery and Fleet Services, based on River Road in Thames ward, Barking, wants to see a commitment from councillors to keep the streets around his workplace clean.

“There’s no regular street cleaning or road maintenance down River Road,” he said.

“Lights are out, there are dangerous potholes everywhere and rubbish and thick dust obscure most of the street furniture.

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“Businesses are quite apathetic to local elections because we are largely ignored, despite the fact we pay huge amounts of rates and collectively employ large swathes of the local population.”

Barry Turner, membership manager of the Cook Road Mecca Bingo in Dagenham’s Goresbrook ward, believes cutting crime should be the top priority for any would-be councillors.

He said: “We get much of our business in the evenings, but people can be put off going out at night.

“I’d want candidates to deliver a crackdown on crime.”

One of the more straightforward ways councils impact on local firms is by doing business with them – especially in industries like construction.

Ishrat Sharif, chief executive of DPB Ltd – Design, Plan, Build – in Tanner Street, Abbey ward, Barking, wants a guarantee more contracts will be kept within the borough.

“I’d like to see more effort from the council to hand out contracts to local businesses,” she said.

“There doesn’t seem to be any transparency or feedback given to businesses in the procurement stages.

“We make sure we employ Barking and Dagenham workers, but if the council can’t help us there’s very little incentive to stick around in the borough.”

Carl Blackburn, chief executive of Barking and Dagenham CVS, based in Ripple Road, Eastbury ward, insists councillors should put values above individual policies.

“We want to see councillors elected who put local communities at the heart of everything they do,” he said.

“This is a very diverse borough, and all the better for that, and we want local councillors to work hard to bring people together so there is greater understanding, tolerance and acceptance of different cultures, faiths and beliefs.”