Peter Luff MP, who is Chairman of the influential Business & Enterprise Select Committee in Parliament, visited Reading on 22 January to meet with local businesses and business organisations to understand how they are coping with the current economic downturn.
Mr. Luff was invited to the meeting which was organised by Alok Sharma the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Reading West. In addition to local business owners others present at the meeting included Brian Eastman, Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses Reading and West Berkshire Branch and local FSB co-ordinator Karen Durcan as well as Tim Evans, Chairman of the Thames Valley Economic Partnership.
After the meeting Mr. Luff said: “I came here today to support Alok Sharma, our excellent Parliamentary Candidate for Reading West, and also, as part of my work as Business and Enterprise Committee Chairman, to listen to local businesses and understand what can be done to support them through some very difficult economic times. It has been a very constructive discussion and I have noted the issues which have been raised by local businesses.
The Conservatives have already proposed a number of measures to help businesses such as our proposal for a £50 billion National Loan Guarantee Scheme which will get credit flowing and save jobs; our proposal to reduce employment costs for small businesses by cutting National Insurance and through a tax break for new jobs and our proposal to help small businesses with cash flow by delaying VAT bills for six months.”
Mr. Luff continued: “I have personally teamed up with the FSB to help small businesses and am sponsoring a private members’ bill, the Small Business Rate Relief (Automatic Payment) Bill, to ensure that rate relief applies automatically for small firms. Making these payments automatic would ensure the money gets directly to those who need it. It will be a boost to small businesses and even cut administrative costs for the local authorities that promote the availability of the rate relief. Rates are the third largest item of expenditure for small businesses after wages and rents, so this relief would make a huge difference.”
Alok Sharma said: “The sad fact is that thanks to Gordon Brown’s addiction to debt and the Labour Government not fixing the roof when the sun was shining Britain has gone into this recession very badly prepared with record levels of debt and, according to the most recent economic forecasts from the European Commission, the UK is forecast to experience the worst recession of any of the major EU economies. Unfortunately the market now judges that the UK is almost three times more likely to default on its debt than a comparable economy like Germany and the cost of insuring British Government debt against the risk of default is almost twice as high as insuring the debt of McDonalds!”
Alok Sharma added: “Whilst the Reading economy is relatively resilient we are not immune to the recession and sadly are seeing rising levels of job losses and repossessions locally. Small and medium sized businesses are the lifeblood of our local communities and more needs to be done to help them and ultimately protect local jobs. The Government has just been too slow in reacting – local businesses need help right now.”