A kickstart; a reset; a confident push forward – however you wish to phrase it, we need a boost to our economic stability and confidence, and it cannot come too soon.

The resounding response I get from public-facing businesses I speak with, across the Stroud District, is that trading times are increasingly challenging. Because consumer confidence is not where it needs to be, spending is understandably very cautious – though hospitality businesses seem to be bucking that trend a little and enjoying a somewhat buoyant time, they report.

Please don’t read this as the outlook being bleak – it isn’t (yet), but be under no illusion that it is very tough. It’s not just our independent businesses that are feeling the pinch, many online retailers and the out-of-town retailers are feeling it too. This not only impacts the places you visit, it hits the entire supply chain.

There is a feeling of the economy sliding along, more than feeling energised and optimistic. Whatever the result of the General Election (and whenever it is called) we need a fresh push, a robust plan and more confidence and optimism in our communities.

It is certainly not all gloom and doom. As part of these visits around the towns I learn of the exciting new summer products arriving, the engaging events being planned in our towns and countryside, seasonal menus being created and an expectation we should have a good tourist season this year. Almost all of our market towns are also seeing new and innovative businesses open – something that is always heartening to see. Businesses are upsizing too.

Help support your local economy (before those of other countries and continents, or funding shareholders everywhere else) by thinking local first in your buying choices, discovering what your local towns have to offer, and making the most of what is on your doorstep. If we all do that, even just a little more, it will make a huge difference to the local businesses that provide local jobs, local opportunities and do so much to support our local communities.