Monday, 11 November 2013

Small business Saturday: An opportunity lost

“One of the most important things that councils can do to improve local life is to support the local economy. The Localism Act gives councils more freedom to offer business rate discounts –  to help attract forms, investment and jobs. Whilst councils would need to meet the cost of any discount is outweighed by the long-term benefit of attracting growth and jobs to their area.”

 Straight out of the Localism Bill. Sounds good!

Small Business Saturday on 7 December this year will shine a much-needed spotlight on a struggling sector that urgently needs support.

 It is believed that almost 40 per cent of small businesses in Barnet go under within just three years of starting up, due to disastrously high tax rates and lack of support from the council and the Tory-led coalition government.

 Shops and small businesses across the country are due to see their business rates increase by an average of £430 from next April, at a total cost to businesses of £700 million.

 Small business owners face a stark choice: either pass these business rate increases on to their customers through higher prices – adding to the cost of living crisis for hard-working families – or face a further squeeze until they can no longer afford to stay in business.

 They need help to see them through these tough times. That’s why a Labour Government would cut business rates for small and medium businesses in 2015 and freeze them in 2016. This move would mean an average saving of nearly £450 for 1.5 million business properties and would be paid for by not going ahead with the Tories’ plans for an additional Corporation Tax cut for just 80,000 large companies.

 The Labour Party is the party of small business, and is pledged to cut business rates for 1.5 million businesses nationally if it wins the general election in 2015, then freeze them the next year saving small businesses at least £450 a year.

 Small businesses are also facing rising energy costs and Labour’s Energy Price Freeze would save businesses on average £1,800.

 Families are facing a cost of living crisis with prices rising faster than wages for 39 out of the last 40 months, more people than ever are working part-time because they can’t get enough hours to work full-time and energy bills having gone up by an average of £300 since David Cameron became Prime Minster. But small businesses are facing their own version of the cost of living crisis – a cost of doing business crisis.

 The living standards crisis is hitting businesses as well their customers. Many small businesses report that energy bills are the second biggest cost they face after rates and our pledge to freeze energy prices for 20 months until January 2017 will save small businesses an average of £1,800.

 Most of the jobs in the future will be created by a large number of small businesses which is why they need our support. Our plans will make a real difference for small firms, benefit ordinary consumers when they’re doing the weekly shop and also benefit our community through more local jobs.

 Barnet has the third highest number of VAT registrations in Greater London, and 90% of Barnet businesses employ fewer than 10 people - so helping small businesses is key for the local economy and for local jobs.

 The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) supports Small Business Saturday and wants to make sure as many small businesses as possible maximise its opportunities, and we should take this opportunity to show we mean business for small businesses.

That is why as part of Small Business Saturday I am asked that the Council investigated ways of offering small businesses in Barnet a discount on business rates under new powers in the Localism Act in order to attract new firms, growth and jobs to the local economy, and support those small businesses currently operating in the Borough. Council asks Cabinet to work with local businesses and traders on any proposals, and report back by the end of the financial year on possible proposals.

With small businesses under the cosh, parking restrictions and charges imposed by the Tories on Barnet council in the last two years have in many cases been the last straw to their survival. Sadly the Grinch lives on in Barnet. Our Tory councillors could not support such a move that could be lifeline for so many. They ignore advice form their own Government, they ignore the calls from small businesses whom the profess to support.

 They have learnt the lessons of last Christmas on their free parking and are very likely to use Saturday 7th December 2013 to launch the free days, but no amount of flag waving and self trumpeting will save struggling independent businesses unless drastic action to help them happens now.




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