Small businesses are at the heart of our local economy. They create jobs and money and provide essential services that are central to our community. Yet many small businesses have complained to me about business rates. They feel it is an unfair tax that falls hardest on those who can least afford to pay. Added to this is a concern that business rates just go straight to central Government rather than to benefit our area.
This is why I welcome this week's announcement by the Chancellor that councils are now going to keep all of the business rates they collect from local businesses. This will hand the power back from Westminster to local councils.
We will also reform the business rates system so that local government will have the power to cut business rates, relieving pressure on small companies who struggle to afford this tax. The opportunity for councils to charge lower business rates will encourage more growth. Businesses will be able to expand and take on more staff. Local businesses need local solutions.
National Insurance has been cut for the first four people employed by small businesses. Along with the new business rate reforms, it is about giving local businesses and people in Dover and Deal the chance to get on and do well. These reforms help level the playing field between small business and big corporations.
Through the Government’s Enterprise Allowance scheme, people have been helped off of unemployment benefit and encouraged to start their own businesses. 120 people have been helped to start a new business in our area. Not only are there now less people claiming unemployment benefit, these new businesses have created more jobs and money for our local economy. We have seen a 55% drop in unemployment in Dover and Deal since May 2010.
More is also being done to provide wider work support. Recently I met with the Skillnet Group, who help people with learning disabilities into work through training and social enterprise. I heard from local jobseekers about their personal experiences finding and sustaining work, and how they are keen to find more hours of paid employment. I was really impressed with their determination to do well and to have the same opportunities in the workplace as everyone else.
Through the new National Living Wage that will begin in April at £7.20 an hour, workers will be receiving better pay. Tax has been cut for the lowest earners by raising the minimum level for income tax. This means that people get to keep more of their hard-earned money.
We have made real progress creating more jobs and employment opportunities for our local economy, but there is still more to do. I will continue to fight for more opportunities, jobs and money for Dover and Deal.
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