Day of cel­e­bra­tion and re­flec­tion for busi­ness

Southport Visiter - - Visiter Life - BY CHRISTY BYRNE [email protected]­i­tymir­ror.com @ByrneChristy

SOUTH­PORT re­tail­ers, res­i­dents and Labour cam­paign­ers marked Small Busi­ness Satur­day by dis­cussing how to save lo­cal high streets.

Shadow trea­sury min­is­ter Peter Dowd MP and South­port’s Labour can­di­date, Liz Sav­age, took to the streets as part of a Labour cam­paign to hear lo­cal con­cerns and ex­plain the party’s plans to as­sist small busi­ness own­ers and trou­bled high streets.

In a visit to Way­far­ers Ar­cade, Ms Sav­age over­saw the open­ing of Santa’s Grotto and spoke to lo­cal re­tail­ers and res­i­dents about the Govern­ment’s plans to re­duce busi­ness rates.

She said that the plan would leave most shops on Lord Street com­pletely un­touched.

Ms Sav­age said: “High busi­ness rates is the num­ber one prob­lem Lord St re­tail­ers have com­plained to me about.

“Yet the Govern­ment, which sets the rates in the first place, pro­poses a so­lu­tion which leaves many of the re­tail­ers here in ex­actly the same boat as their premises are above the low ceil­ing the Govern­ment has set for as­sis­tance.

“It’s great the Govern­ment is fi­nally lis­ten­ing to our calls to look again at busi­ness rates, but it doesn’t go any­where near the level of re­form we want to see. To qual­ify, busi­nesses must have a rate­able value be­low £51,000, so this won’t re­ally help Lord Street.”

Ms Sav­age and Mr Dowd also vis­ited Birk­dale Vil­lage, where some lo­cal busi­ness own­ers were more hope­ful but still con­cerned about re­cent clo­sures such as the RBS bank branch, which shut its doors for the last time at the start of last month.

Mr Dowd said Labour’s plans re­ceived a warm wel­come in the vil­lage.

He said: “Lo­cal busi­ness has suf­fered un­der the aus­ter­ity plans brought in by the Tories and Lib Dems, a lack of wage growth means there’s not the spare cash there was go­ing around and is a fac­tor forc­ing changes.

“That is sadly and rather lit­er­ally il­lus­trated by the lo­cal RBS branch clos­ing here in Birk­dale, some­thing South­port’s Con­ser­va­tive MP wrongly claimed he’d suc­cess­fully pre­vented.

“It’s wor­ry­ing when high street main­stays dis­ap­pear, it can lead to a down­ward spi­ral and it’s one of the rea­sons we want to stop bank and post of­fice clo­sures as part of our plans.

“We also want an­nual rates eval­u­a­tions, to en­sure the busi­ness rate sys­tem is as fair and up to date as pos­si­ble.

“Our ideas were re­ally well re­ceived, as was the fact we want to lis­ten and re­spond to the prob­lems lo­cal busi­nesses face.”

The owner of the Bar­rel House cafe, Martin Bos, feared for the fu­ture of the high street, say­ing: “There are ma­jor changes go­ing on that the Govern­ment is very slow to re­act to.

“Its pol­icy does lit­tle to help cur­rent busi­ness and isn’t re­ally pre­par­ing for the fu­ture ei­ther.

“I per­son­ally be­lieve that high streets will be less about re­tail as that in­creas­ingly moves on­line and will be more about cre­at­ing so­cial ar­eas while re­tain­ing some core ne­ces­si­ties.”

Liz Sav­age with Peter Dowd, left, and Martin Bos in The Bar­rel House, above, and, right with Father Christ­mas and lo­cal helpers at his grotto in the Way­far­ers Ar­cade

Liz Sav­age out cam­paign­ing on Small Busi­ness Satur­day, above, and, left, with Labour Party mem­bers and cam­paign­ers in Birk­dale Vil­lage

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