Page last updated at 19:03 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 20:03 UK

Tough times in Stroud

Shop in Stroud
Stroud is "feeling it, but fighting it".

As warnings of a full-blown recession grow, Dave Harvey, the BBC's business correspondent in the West Country, is travelling the region to see how ordinary towns are changing. On Tuesday he was in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

"If this is capitalism working, then I'd like another system," says Molly Scott Cato, probably speaks for many in this town, and maybe the country.

Stroud has always been a fairly radical place, home of Laurie Lee, a clutch of Victorian chartists and now one of the greenest places in Britain.

There's a thriving farmers' market, everyone trades on the local tag, and you're never short of a scented candle here.

But Ms Scott Cato, like many, wants more.

"We're going to relaunch our own local currency," she tells me, "and try to create a truly local economy.

"They say capitalism is 'just correcting', but people are losing their livelihoods, their homes. It's ugly and cruel."

'No money'

So, is Stroud going bust? Well, like everywhere, there are pressures.

So many of our members are either having overdrafts refused, or being charged exorbitant rates
Paul Goffe, FSB

Recently the local building society, the Stroud & Swindon, laid off 22 staff at its call centre, simply due to the collapse in the mortgage market.

I meet a florist who says he is now struggling.

"People just don't seem to have any money. They look, they sniff, but they don't buy."

And the local Federation of Small Businesses is feeling the literal effects of the credit crunch.

"So many of our members are either having overdrafts refused," says Paul Goffe, "or being charged exorbitant rates.

"One guy is on a 15% rate. Where's that come from, when Bank base is now 4.5%?"

Wondrous sight

But as I sit and mull over all this with a couple of experts from the local Business Link service, we see a wondrous sight. No really.

Mike Warburton
Mike Warburton says the county's firms are "a resilient lot"

Clutching a box of clothes and some keys, a couple open up a very clean shop across the street. Up goes a sign: "Opening today at 12 noon."

For the first time. Ali and her boyfriend Dan are opening a brand new ladies fashion boutique.

"It was a dream of mine long before all this, all this - you know, trouble."

My experts have a chat with her, and seem satisfied. "She's passionate", says Brian Steel, "and that counts for a lot. It's a clean shop, and it seems classy. I just hope she's done her sums."

'Resilient lot'

In fact if I had to sum up Stroud, it would be "feeling it, but fighting it".

A survey of Business Link customers in this part of the country backs me up - 38% of the small businesses they spoke to reported lower profits, and higher prices.

But a staggering 60% said they were spending more on marketing.

"We're a resilient lot here", says Mike Warburton, of accountants Grant Thornton. Gloucestershire through and through, Mike knows the small firms of this county like, well, friends.

"People are under pressure, but that doesn't mean they're going under," he adds.

"Look, this is nothing like the '70s or the '80s. We're slowing down yes, but not going under."

In these times, it feels like a day out in the sunshine.



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