Barnet Council will appoint a special guru to help boost the fortunes of small businesses in the borough.

The small business champion will build up relationships with bodies that represent smaller firms and promote events designed by the council to support small companies.

It is hoped the scheme will be able to cut the relatively high number of start-up companies in the borough that fail in the first few years of doing business.

When the plans were discussed at a meeting of the assets, regeneration and growth committee yesterday (November 27), Labour councillors accused the Conservative administration of stealing their party’s ideas.

Kath McGuirk, Labour member for West Finchley, said: “In the Labour Party manifesto for 2018 it says ‘we will appoint a small business champion’.

“In the Conservative manifesto for 2018, there is no mention of a small business champion.

“I welcome the fact that you have decided to nick our ideas.”

But committee chair and Conservative member for Finchley Church End Cllr Dan Thomas accused Cllr McGuirk of making “petty party-political points”.

He said: “It was the Federation of Small Businesses that came up with the idea.”

Labour member for Burnt Oak Sara Conway criticised the council’s record on small businesses, pointing out that a survey revealed only 43 per cent were satisfied with Barnet as a place to do business.

Meanwhile, just 27 per cent were satisfied with the council’s approach to small firms.

She added: “One in four people are low paid and 29 per cent are paid below the London Living Wage. These things should have been picked up in the report.”

Cllr Ross Houston, Labour member for West Finchley, raised concerns about the high cost of housing in the borough.

He said: “Housing costs in Barnet are extremely high. That is a worrying trend. Low pay is going up and housing costs are going up.”

But Cllr Peter Zinkin, Conservative member for Childs Hill, said: “We also reference in the report that only four per cent of the borough’s economically active population is unemployed.

“Unemployment has gone down, and there is a significant amount of good news in this.

“Taking this report and saying what is going on in Barnet is half-hearted is just not correct.”

The Entrepreneurial Barnet report also contains initiatives to cut the amount of office space lost to housing developers and boost the number of local people with the skills that are needed by employers.

Cllr Thomas pointed out that the council had been making it easier for local firms to win public sector contracts through its procurement portal.

Councillors unanimously agreed the report’s recommendation to appoint a small business champion.