Much of the recent literature about local governance of Britain’s cities has examined the power of a newly evolving ‘business elite’. However, in trying to understand changing governance forms, these analyses have generally lacked sensitivity to the role of actors (businesspeople) and their representative organizations. Analytical categories drawn from social movement theory (SMT) are introduced to develop a more actor‐centred approach to the role of business interests in urban management. While not attempting to claim that business represents a social movement within Britain’s cities, it does illuminate how effectively or otherwise businesspeople develop an identity based around their representative organizations and specific business agendas, define non‐business actors as opponents, and deploy and implement the agendas they create. We then use these SMT categories to examine the creation of business agendas in three English towns – Barnsley, Mansfield and Accrington.