2016 will bring a bumper year of Scottish, Welsh, local, council and potentially European referendum votes which could have just as big an impact on your business as the General Election last year. This government is committed to the localism agenda – giving more powers to councils to make decisions on the local economy, investment, planning, licensing, even public health.

Just look at two of our big political priorities at the moment: Sunday trading and business rates. Both are being driven in part by the government’s desire to devolve more powers to the local level. We are actively campaigning against any change to Sunday rules and your help is crucial in this; you can find out more at www.keepsundayspecial.org.uk.

The second big area of change when it comes to local powers is on business rates. At the Conservative Party Conference towards the end of last year, the Chancellor proudly announced the ‘end of the uniform business rate’, allowing councils to set and keep the rates income that they generate. The rhetoric conveniently ignores the existing powers for local authorities to grant discretionary rate relief, and the only firm policy change we have seen is for councils to get the power to increase rates to fund infrastructure projects. Nonetheless, local decision-making is at the core of the government’s thinking on business rates.

So, with more decisions than ever before being made locally this year, it’s vital you engage with local decision-makers to educate them on the importance of your business both to the local economy and community.