Friday, 13 November 2009

Supporting Elmbridge Business through the Recession

Over recent weeks I have been down in Esher and Walton gauging the local impact of the recession. I’ve heard from retailers in Walton, local farmers at Esher’s Farmers market and been in touch with councillors, the Surrey Chamber of Commerce, Walton Citizens Advice Bureau and the Federation of Small Businesses.

I started my career as a competition lawyer at Linklaters, advising multinationals through to small businesses. Later, at the Foreign Office, I negotiated UK investment protection agreements with Mexico, Iran (under the reformist government before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad !) and Vietnam. Having worked with businesses of all sizes, striving to get a competitive cutting edge, I appreciate the fine margin between staying afloat and going under during a recession.

Overall, Elmbridge has held up reasonably well. However, unemployment has trebled in the last year (albeit from a low base) and we have seen some closures - three local Wine Rack outlets being the latest to go.

The overriding message I have received is the importance of reviving business confidence. Credit is still too slow to arrive where it is needed. Quite a few retailers and other small businesses are struggling with cash-flow bottlenecks along the supply chain. And the high burden of taxes hardly helps.

Here are 4 recession measures I would promote to help pull local business through this tough period:

-A National Loan Guarantee Scheme to get credit directly to business, without excessive bureaucracy.

-Allow small businesses to defer VAT payments for 6 months to ease short-term cash-flow problems created by the recession.

-Give the council a greater share of the revenue raised from business rates, so they can cut parking charges.

-Cut corporation tax – a much needed shot in the arm for small and larger businesses.


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