I was delighted to be at the first ‘Montpellier Day’ on the 29th of June and was relieved on behalf of the traders that the weather cooperated! The Montpellier Association did a fantastic job in creating a great atmosphere with everything from classic cars lining the road to pet competitions. It’s not every day you see a dog dressed up as Boris Johnson…
However talking to some of the local businesses taking part in the event, it was obvious there was a very serious point to it all. Behind the smiles many businesses are finding trading conditions very tough. Footfall is down, and margins are being squeezed. Some feel they will not be able to carry on much longer.
As a Conservative I believe that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the key to Britain’s future growth and economic recovery. That’s why the feedback I was getting caused me great concern. We need to make sure we leave no stone unturned in helping this critical sector. A raft of measures have already been introduced by this government to back small businesses – such as doubling small business rate relief, introducing a National Insurance holiday for businesses outside the South-East and rolling out the Regional Growth Fund with the introduction of Enterprise Zones. More measures are in the pipeline too.
But we must be relentless in searching for new and better ways to support businesses like those in Montpellier and elsewhere in Cheltenham. One of the ideas I raised with traders was whether it is right that the money raised by business rates should still be sent to central government for redistribution rather than being re-invested locally. These are difficult questions, and I can’t pretend the answers are always straightforward. But these are discussions we need to have.
If you have an idea that would help promote local businesses in Cheltenham I want to hear it. You can let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.