• Small Businesses Matter

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    23 January 2015

    Recently I met with the Roads Minister in Westminster to discuss a local parking difficulty in Crediton. I was joined by Liz Hocking who is a determined member of the Town Council and, like me, has long been frustrated that the dual use loading bays in the town have resulted in hundreds of fines for drivers who inadvertently park in them at times when they are not permitted to do so - simply because these bays are not sufficiently differentiated from others nearby that are less restricted. The Minister, flanked by a couple of officials (steeped in the dark arts of parking and signage) were able, after a little discussion, to provide a solution. Basically, the offending bays can be coloured differently to the others making it clear that they are subject to different controls. I am now liaising with Highways to ensure this plan is put into action. Parking is a problem for most of the towns in my patch and what may on the surface of it appear a relatively minor issue is in fact of huge importance. Parking difficulties deter visitors and local traders suffer. These traders are the life-blood of our communities – providing the jobs and the focus about which communities flourish. After agricultural businesses it is high street retailers that are the next most numerous in my constituency. Hence I fought hard over the parking issue in Crediton – we need to do whatever we can to support local trade. There are other important issues too – I know only too well about these through my Central Devon Business Club, through the local open meetings I have held for businesses (for example in Chagford and Crediton), through my support for Business Saturday (in Okehampton) and through the hundreds of local businesses and organisations I have visited during this parliament. Along with parking, taxes are a major issue. After rents and staff costs, Business Rates are typically the next largest overhead for these companies and where the competition is a local supermarket these overheads can be a killer. There are also the taxes on employment – National Insurance that is levied both on the employee and the employer. These taxes are particularly unwelcome as they serve to make labour more expensive than otherwise and recruitment less desirable. They push up unemployment. I have lobbied very hard on these issues over the life of this Parliament and the Government is acting. On business rates we have made relief for small businesses automatic along with a £1,000 business rate rebate for small shops and a reduction of £2,000 in National Insurance charges for small enterprises. These measures are an important shot in the arm for small businesses and especially for those who populate our vital High Streets. There is always more to be done and my hope is that after the next election we will have the chance to continue to grow the economy fast enough to provide still further support still for our vital small businesses.