Day of celebration and reflection for business
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