SMALL businesses, the defence budget, housing, education and the NHS dominated the discussion at last night’s News hustings.
More than 50 people attended the debate at The Plaza in Havant and there were questions about big issues in the constituency, including getting more jobs for young people and controlling greenfield development.
One of the questions posed was about encouraging small businesses to thrive to be able to compete with commercial giants.
Conservative candidate Alan Mak said small businesses were the ‘heartbeat of the economy’ and said more was needed to promote active business associations such as those in Emsworth, Leigh Park and Hayling.
He said his party would review business rates.
‘We need to make sure we use our small businesses and promote them to show we care about their future,’ he said.
The Green Party’s Tim Dawes said the ‘single most important’ factor was to protect the small business relief in places like Emsworth.
‘I would like to see it extended,’ he said.
‘The situation is if you have one barber’s shop in Havant and open another in Bedhampton, you become liable for business rates on both shops. We should have some flexibility.’
He said local planners needed to make it easier for ordinary people to open shops.
John Perry, the Ukip candidate, said when he moved to the area there were lots of small businesses in East Street, Havant, but they had gone, partly due to competition from online shopping.
He said: ‘I would like to see a reduction in business rates to reflect the current economy.’
Labour’s Graham Giles said he would work with the council to try to bring down rates for small businesses.
‘We need to encourage a different culture of small businesses,’ he said.
‘Social enterprises are starting to thrive across Britain.’
The Lib Dem’s Steve Sollitt said local authorities need to look at how empty shops units are used to encourage prospective business owners to come in.
‘We have a responsibility to ensure small businesses survive,’ he said.
Drama as Ukip candidate challenges his opponent
THERE were heated scenes towards the end of the meeting as Ukip candidate John Perry publicly challenged Conservative Alan Mak.
Mr Perry claimed Mr Mak was misrepresenting himself, claiming that Mr Mak had said he is a member of Cambridge University Board which advises on education policy.
Mr Mak confirmed that he sits on the university’s Alumni Advisory Board and strongly denied Mr Perry’s allegation.
Mr Perry’s speech was shouted down by two members of the audience.
Mr Mak said: ‘There’s no place for this kind of personal attack in Havant politics.’