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Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West: ‘Small businesses are still struggling under uncertainty’

PUBLISHED: 10:17 30 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:18 30 November 2017

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West urges the government to do more to help small businesses ahead of Small Business Saturday on December 2. Picture: GEOFF WILSON

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West urges the government to do more to help small businesses ahead of Small Business Saturday on December 2. Picture: GEOFF WILSON

©GeoffWilson2016

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West urges the Government to do more to support small businesses ahead of Small Business Saturday.

Small businesses in Muswell Hill Broadway. Picture: GOOGLE MAPSSmall businesses in Muswell Hill Broadway. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

Whether in Wood Green or Crouch End, Muswell hill or Bounds Green, our high streets and communities are made all the more special by the variety of small businesses that comprise them.

But the pubs and cafes, grocers, butchers and restaurants, boutique shops and small retailers that I enjoy frequenting on weekends across our community are in danger. So too are the entrepreneurial and technologically driven small businesses that want to compete nationally and globally.

These small businesses are under a huge amount of pressure stemming from a cocktail of tax complexity, business rate revaluations and Brexit uncertainty.

A number of small business owners in Hornsey & Wood Green have been in contact with me over recent months, fearful of having to close down their operations or employ fewer people due to changes to business rates and a lack of support from the Government.

It is welcome that the Government took on board Labour’s policy of indexing business rates by the Consumer Price Index. Smaller businesses on which we all rely would have been the most hard hit from a Retail Price Index rise, but the Government must go further.

Small businesses in London are still struggling under uncertainty and complexity. The Valuation Office Agency’s data points out London is bearing a disproportionate share of the rating burden; while it has 16.2 per cent of rateable properties, it bears 32.1pc of the rates payable.

Nearly one third of members of the Federation of Small Businesses London said they would cut back on capital expenditure and 20.1pc said they would reduce headcount due to the business rates revaluation. The Treasury will already be aware of business concerns over the frequency of revaluations, but in the it must also make sure relief is there for businesses.

Meanwhile, moving to three-yearly revaluations will help make the business rates system fairer, but it does not go far enough. Ideally for business this would take place every two years.

Against the complexity of taxation for small business, Brexit has added uncertainty that is hampering business operations. London remains a fantastic location to open up a business, but if we are to keep producing globally competitive companies, the Government must do more to support small businesses.

Entrepreneurs’ relief remains highly effective to keep investment coming into the UK and businesses to get started in our capital. Sitting on the International Trade Select Committee, I also understand the need to to get more small businesses from London exporting. One in five small businesses currently exports, but this figure could skyrocket with the right support.

But it does not seem forthcoming and business owners of all sizes remain concerned about our country’s slashed growth forecast and productivity puzzle.

Many businesses in our community would have been relieved if the Government simply introduced legislation to curb late payments or simplified business taxes - let alone pledging to work with the Mayor of London to ensure the capital reaches the 50,000 homes it needs per year and thereby allow businesses to recruit those with the right skills.

People in our city understand the value of small businesses, and this weekend will show their appreciation at Small Business Saturday across London.

Now is the Government’s turn to show theirs.

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