We’re now well into the festive season – a time of year which is vital for small businesses everywhere.
Growing up above my family’s high street shop, I know exactly how much small businesses rely on Christmas trade to keep in the black. That’s why every December I am out on the streets to help promote Small Business Saturday – a wonderful celebration of our excellent local firms. This year, I visited more than 15 small businesses across the Havant constituency, from butchers and tearooms to florists and jewellers.
These small businesses really are the lifeblood of our economy, accounting for 99.3 per cent of all businesses. Small and medium sized firms provide jobs for 15.7m people in this country, or 60 per cent of all private sector employment in the UK.
Quite simply, without them our economy would grind to a halt.
So, I am also proud that this government has been introducing new initiatives to boost independent shops, preserving the character and success of our high streets.
One measure that instantly saves a small business around £5,000 a year is a change to the threshold at which companies pay business rates. 600,000 firms will be exempt from this tax next year – a big change that local business owners are telling me makes a real difference.
Alongside this, corporation tax will fall to 17 per cent by 2020, the lowest in the developed world, down from 28 per cent back in 2010. This will save businesses £6.6bn across the whole country.
Finally, we will use Brexit to spearhead an export drive to new trading partners all over the globe, providing new markets and growth opportunities for firms of all sizes. To help us along the way, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the Autumn Statement an extra £2bn a year by 2020-21 for additional investment in research, development and innovation.
This means that the government is doing its part to stimulate small businesses and provide them with the tools for success. But the rest comes down to the consumer, and on Small Business Saturday it was heartening to see so many people hit the streets of Havant, Bedhampton, Emsworth and Hayling Island – and other parts of the constituency – to support our small shops.
The picture painted locally is bright, with business owners I spoke to reporting a positive trading environment.
In some cases, 2016 has been one of the best years on record.
But we can’t be complacent.
For many small businesses, the festive trading period will define their year. So, if you are deciding between an online retailer – or a local shop – visit one of our superb local small businesses and help support our local economy.