Almost every week I visit one of the small and medium-sized businesses in the Devizes constituency to see what they are doing and how I might help them grow.
Small businesses (SMEs) are the engine room of the British economy, employing more than half of all private sector workers and contributing 50 per cent of national income. We have a hugely diverse local SME sector including manufacturing companies, construction firms, agricultural businesses, retailers and service sector companies.
Many report healthy trading conditions and better access to credit as British banks start lending again, and the tumbling unemployment rates across Wiltshire are testament to the growth in this vital part of our economy. However, the shackles of red tape still hold back many companies and create endless headaches.
I was really pleased to see this week that the Government is introducing a Small Business Bill to help make the United Kingdom the most attractive place to start, finance and grow a business.
This will reduce the burden of regulation on small businesses, help them to access better the huge market (£230 billion at last count) offered by the public sector and also help to ensure that workers are protected by increasing the maximum fine for those who pay less than the statutory minimum wage.
Iam particularly interested in businesses on the High Street as these are such a vital part of our communities and I have been in touch with hundreds of local high street retailers to make sure they are aware of the package of help on rates that was introduced earlier this year.
But I want to do more to showcase the superb contribution that independent retailers make so I will be introducing in the next few weeks an Independent Shop of the Year award – watch my column and newspapers for more details.
In the meantime there is a new Great British High Street Award and I am writing to the business partnerships across the constituency, encouraging them to apply – any publicity and support that we can attract locally will be worthwhile. A vital part of a healthy local economy is the transport links upon which we rely and I will be at Pewsey station tomorrow morning to meet commuters, discuss the current timetable consultation and share the work that is going on to protect our local train services.