Rather than highlighting the challenges of the past few months, I am pleased to be able to start this month’s column on a more positive note. Thanks to the sacrifices made by residents, together with the success of the local vaccine rollout, we are now in a position where we can safely lift restrictions, allowing us to spend more time with loved ones and giving businesses the kickstart they need after so many months of lockdown measures. I know that reopening of indoor hospitality this month will be particularly welcomed by residents, who will once again be able to make the most of our fantastic long-standing local venues, and this will be a huge boost to our local economy.
It has been really beneficial to get out on to the high street and speak with some of the businesses who have been able to reopen as part of step 2 of the roadmap. I have also held a couple of roundtable events for local business to discuss how best the Government can help as we look ahead to further reopening. I have engaged with the Treasury to see what further support we can give with the various loan schemes, particularly with options to refinance. The second main discussion point was how we can best reform the business rates system, because many bricks and mortar businesses feel at a big disadvantage compared to those who are online based. The system needs to change to reflect the change in business practice, both protecting the high street and ensuring sustainable income for local authorities. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, it has been encouraging to hear the positive news on sales and the warm welcome businesses have received from residents since reopening. As we continue to open up, I am really looking forward to getting back out on to our high streets to chat with more businesses and hear of their experiences.
I also hope to be able to resume in-person surgeries around the constituency in the near future, if it is safe to do so, and look forward to meeting with residents then.
First published: My Local News, May 2021