Small, independent businesses are so important within our communities – and here in Penarth we know only too well how precarious the position can be for some, as they compete against the might of the big supermarkets and the change in people’s shopping habits, and struggle with local factors such as traffic and parking problems.
Sadly we have seen a few much-loved businesses close recently, underlining how important it is for us to make the most of what we have on our doorsteps.
The distinct service and choice that small businesses provide is not something we want to lose from Penarth – or communities across the constituency – so I’m encouraging everyone to get involved with Small Business Saturday on December 7.
This grass-roots campaign, endorsed by small business groups, local councils and other organisations, encourages people to shop locally and support small and independent businesses – not only on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, but also with a long-term commitment.
On a local level, I fully endorse this campaign, and we need to build on the work of the Vale Council, Penarth Town Council and local councillors like Lis Burnett and Mike Cuddy in supporting businesses – for example through introducing parking wardens to help ensure restrictions are followed, the work being done to bring in a Business Improvement District, and the town centre strategy being taken forward together by the Vale and Penarth Town Councils. The work being done by GPG and Anthony Slaughter through the Shop in Penarth scheme is also excellent and has my support.
Meanwhile at a UK level, Ed Miliband has committed to cutting business rates in 2015 if Labour return to government, and freezing them again for small businesses in 2016 – rather than going ahead with the Tory/Lib-Dem Government’s corporation tax cut for the largest firms.
There are of course other specific problems which must be considered at a local level. For example, many Penarth residents and traders feel the recent (and ongoing) gas works have had a significant effect on businesses, and I have spoken directly with Wales and West Utilities to follow up on the concerns raised.
It’s another reason why I’m encouraging people to embrace Small Business Saturday, which aims to highlight and generate a secure future for local, independent shops.
So I’m inviting business owners and residents to meet me and local representatives at a street stall outside the St Fagan’s pub on Windsor Road in the town centre on Saturday 7December (10.30am-12.30pm), to talk about what we can do to help make things better, and to encourage people to shop locally and help Penarth traders. I hope to see you there.
* Stephen writes his weekly View from Westminster column for the Penarth Times (www.penarthtimes.co.uk) – this column was printed on November 21, 2013.