Today I held a meeting with local businesses ahead of the Budget on 3 March to hear  about their concerns and what they need in the Budget to help them re-open, get back on track and grow.

I heard from people working in the events industry, a catering company, a hairdresser and an independent travel business to name a few. All were viable businesses before the pandemic – and must be given the support they need to open when they can.

It’s clear that the government must extend business rates relief. There must be an extension of the VAT reduction. And businesses that have taken on loans should only pay them back when they are growing again.

The local businesses all discussed the need for these measures to last over the coming months, for example events still aren’t able to operate at full capacity. Other businesses are anticipating being hit with a delayed economic downturn this year. The furlough scheme should be extended.

I also heard about the inefficiencies of the Kickstart scheme – one provider organisation told me that they have over 1,000 applications pending.  Kickstart must be reformed so that it’s way easier for employers to take part and young people to sign up.

Finally, I heard from one constituent with an events company who has received no government support since the pandemic began.  Despite not having physical premises, there are still overheads to be paid. The government must help the millions of self-employed who have fallen through the cracks.

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