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Desolated Shops.

March 24, 2021 12:25 PM
By Luigi Gregori in Andover Advertiser

A quick ramble around the centre of Andover will show a desolated retail sector. Many shops have gone or will go. Yet this is the tip of the iceberg. Small businesses up and down the UK are in danger. Due to the pandemic, at least one in seven small firms, a massive 906,000 businesses could go bankrupt by April unless they receive additional support. This would leave 2.5 million people without a job and have a catastrophic impact on our communities. Furthermore, we know small businesses are the major factors in our economic growth and well-being and that includes paying tax which funds the government's expenditure.

Small films have been hit by increasing costs and are struggling under a mountain of red tape including a terrible EU trade deal leading to additional costs and disrupted supply chains. Yet while the chancellor is being busy talking to the big multinationals on how they have coped with the pandemic, the needs of hard-working people up and down the country who run small businesses that communities rely on have been ignored. The lack of certainty is not good. Last October the chancellor left business and their employees hanging by thread when he refused to extend furlough until the last possible moment. The government has left over 700,000 of the smaller companies excluded from any real support as owner-managers of limited companies are excluded from many grants. Unfortunately, the priority of the Conservatives seems to be on tax-exempt freeports and watering down workers' rights not supporting our small firms.

What do we need to do to ensure that we have small businesses left to grow our recovery after the pandemic? The government should establish a scheme to compensate small firms for the money they are losing due to forced closure. We should have zero business rates for 2021-22 and give businesses in the retail, hospitality and live events sectors relief on the deferred VAT payments so cash is available as working capital when they are able to open back up. Business support schemes should also be extended to the end of the year. Locally we need to question where the Andover BID is delivering value for money, and appreciate the lifting of parking charges by TVBC.