The City of Sydney will head to the polls tomorrow to vote for its next council and Lord Mayor, and for the first time the city’s 23,000 businesses will vote alongside residents.
Changes made in 2014 by the Baird government allow businesses in the city to put two votes towards the outcome in this year’s elections.
There are five candidates for the position of Lord Mayor, currently held by independent Clover Moore, and one of these challengers is Councillor Angela Vithoulkas from the Sydney Matters Independent Team.
Vithoulkas has been a councillor for the past four years and says she is taking a shot at the lord mayor position to support the city’s business community.
“I’ve been at the pre-polls for the last two weeks, which has been very exciting,” Vithoulkas told SmartCompany this morning.
“As a business owner myself I know how to allocate resources, and I’m a resource that’s best allocated at the pre-polls!”
Vithoulkas has been in hospitality for the last 30 years as part of a family business, which she runs with her brother. She says her experience in with the business community has alerted her to the real needs of the community.
“I’ve opened up, bought and sold nearly 30 businesses over the years, and I was literally born in a shop,” Vithoulkas says.
“I have a profound respect for the people of this city, and they’ve been very supportive of me. I’ve had business owners turning up to the pre-poll booth to tell me they’ll be voting for me tomorrow, and that’s been really inspiring.”
Vithoulkas’ Sydney Matters Team plans to implement a number of policies to help businesses of all sizes in the city. One such policy is the Small Business Taskforce, which she hopes will help to build better relationships with the council and the business community.
“The current leadership is totally out of touch when it comes to dealing with issues small businesses face. They don’t realise that when SMEs have a problem, every minute it goes unsolved is a minute of lost trade,” she says.
The Taskforce is intended to give small businesses someone to call when something is disrupting normal operations. Vithoulkas gives the example of a power outage or unannounced telecommunications work.
She believes the current “red tape of council” means there’s no one authority to contact to ask for help, saying that the taskforce would be there to “support and advocate small businesses, and fix issues immediately”.
“Small businesses need human contact, and resolutions as soon as possible,” Vithoulkas says.
The taskforce would consist of independent representatives from across the board, including councillors, small business owners, and organisations SMEs may have regular issue with, such as telecommunications companies and the police.
The Sydney Matters Team also wants to further the city’s infrastructure for businesses, with Vithoulkas saying she hopes to build a “smart city”.
“We don’t have free Wi-Fi in the CBD. We’re one of the few global cities in the world that doesn’t, even Wellington has it,” she says.
“High speed Wi-Fi infrastructure would make big difference to the tech community, the start-up community, and the small and medium business community.
“Smart tech and good infrastructure will really move us forward, it would be bad business practise to not get ahead of our competitors.”
Vithoulkas also hopes to make procurement processes more transparent for SMEs, and remove unnecessary barriers surrounding tendering.
“The City’s current tendering process makes it difficult for the small and medium businesses in the CBD to respond. The current arbitrary process is not flexible enough to meet the needs of digital purchases or solutions,” Vithoulkas said in a statement.
“We want to create a more open market for tenders. We also want a more open, communicative and collaborative style of local government, which fosters innovation, technology and dialogue.”