Giving Gloucester’s small firms a business rates break could help them through tough times, it has been claimed.
Stella Creasy MP, shadow business minister, was in the city last week on Friday to meet with representatives from Gloucester’s business community and to talk about what is needed in the city to attract new investment.
It comes just days after traders heralded Small Business Saturday, held on December 7, as a big success as parking restrictions were lifted in a bid to encourage shoppers to flood in.
The national scheme was given cross party support and designed to be a celebration of the diverse small business that makes up our high streets.
Stella Creasy told traders she wanted fellow politicians to build on the success of Small Business Saturday by recognising the value of a bustling high street and introducing measures to support small business in the regions.
Speaking after her visit to Gloucester, she said: “One of the main concerns that business owners up and down the country have is the rise in business rates – and Gloucester is no different. Rates here have risen by an average of £1,500 since 2010 and with a further £430 hike expected next year, Gloucester’s business owners are feeling the pinch.
“In this economic climate Labour’s plan to cut rates for small business in 2015 and then freeze them for the year after, coupled with clearer finance available through regional banks, offers real support to these firms.
“Small businesses need a break so that they can thrive.”
John Huggins, owner of the nearby Westgate pub, said: “Business rates are something we all have to pay but in this current climate they are a struggle.
“You would be shocked if you saw the bills we have to pay out each month with the rates, PAYE and VAT, as well as the utilities.”
Sophy Gardner, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Gloucester, said: ‘We’ve had some good news here in Gloucester recently with the opening of a new TSB, bringing with it over 100 jobs, but at the same time we are seeing smaller independent business closing such as two cafes on Westgate Street.
“Gloucester is a fantastic place to live and work but businesses are struggling. As well as business rates, the rising cost of energy is affecting businesses just as much as it affects Gloucester residents. Support is needed which is why locally we are campaigning for free parking after 3pm to encourage people to use the city centre businesses.”
Gloucester City Council leader Paul James has said that he would consider a proposal to introduce such a parking scheme.