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'Small Business Saturday should be all year round for Medway' - say the Liberal Democrats

November 24, 2021 11:44 AM
By Alan Wells for Medway Liberal Democrats

Rochester HS

*pic by Alan Wells

Small Business Saturday 2021 is on 4th December, and local Liberal Democrats recognise that this is an excellent opportunity to promote small businesses and to celebrate the contribution smaller businesses make to Medway's economy. We believe that Small Businesses are the heart and soul of Medway's high streets, it is only by supporting our local independent businesses that we can also help our local high streets to thrive.

We are calling on Medway Council to promote Small Business Saturday and continue to support small businesses throughout the year. Develop a year round communications plan to continue promoting local small businesses and encouraging residents in Medway to shop small and shop local all year round.

To investigate ways to increase shopper numbers around Small Business Saturday and in the lead up to Christmas - such as free car parking in the town centre on busy shopping days - and establish a regular programme of measures to support small businesses. As we continue to emerge from Covid-19 lockdowns, supporting small businesses in our community is more important than ever before.

We support the Fair Tax Declaration - promoting local businesses that have a fair tax accreditation and making sure their procurement processes take tax into account when choosing suppliers and contractors. Our small businesses face a growing list of challenges as they continue to deal with the effects of the pandemic while competing with global online giants such as Amazon.

More and more people are choosing where they shop based on the ethics of the company, rather than just cost and convenience. Promoting Small Businesses that pay their fair share of tax is a great way to support them and encourage local people to use them.

Medway Liberal Democrats know how difficult it has been for our businesses during the last few years, and the lockdown policies that the Government introduced to slow the spread of Coronavirus having a huge economic impact on our towns. A 'Centre for Cities' report which tracks the recovery of high streets in Britain's cities and large towns, states 'South East England (outside London) is the UK region which has seen the biggest number of high street store closures since lock down began'.

Already, a number of businesses around Medway have closed for good. We are calling on the Council to support fledgling businesses, to be proactive in using all its resources to make sure our high streets can thrive and develop a long-term response which recognises the economic damage done by Coronavirus. and what role we want our town centres and high streets to play. Thinking about the role of our high streets means thinking broadly, we don't just need more shops, there should be a mix of residential, artistic, creative, educational and public space put back into our town centres.
Last month we issued a press release on Gillingham town centre and its high street is ignored by the Conservative administration of Medway Council, link can be found here: https://medwaylibdems.org.uk/en/article/2021/1418327/gillingham-ignored-again-say-medway-liberal-democrats

John Castle, Chair of Medway Liberal Democrats said, "Medway's local high streets are facing a crisis, with countless empty shops. Even before lockdown, our high streets were struggling, compounded by changes in consumer habits, years of neglect and poor planning. Medway saw several household name retailers close shops and many more suffering from poor sales figures.

These businesses help make our local community what it is, and play a crucial role in our local economy. They are places of identity, of connection and community, as well as economic exchange. Key to the revival, is the number of people living on or near our high streets. People who live on the edge of town are no longer automatically shopping on our high streets but are doing their shopping in local supermarkets.There should be a mix of employment on our high streets, then both residents and workers will shop on the high street.

We have already called for a review of business rates to reduce burdens on small firms, and now in the run up to Christmas, this is going to be an important festive season and could be make-or-break for some of our small businesses and have a significant impact on Medway's economy. That's why we must pull out all the stops to help businesses survive and thrive to the end of 2021 and beyond."


Notes for Editors:

Small Business Saturday has grown into a significant event - with a record £1.1 billion spent with small businesses during last year's event. Small Business Saturday is the perfect opportunity to engage with local businesses, raise awareness of the issues they face and encourage residents to shop local.

The Fair Tax Foundation has set up a Fair Tax Mark to promote businesses who are open, transparent and responsible taxpayers. More information on how these businesses can get a 'Small Business Standard' Fair Tax Mark can be found here.


Press Release issued on November 4, 2021 11:57 AM

By Stuart Bourne - Medway Liberal Democrats

'Gillingham Ignored AGAIN!' - Say Medway Liberal Democrats

We've seen Medway Council buy multiple buildings in Chatham high street, including spending £2million on Mountbatten House, whilst many in Gillingham high-street stand empty. In January the council won nearly £9.5million to regenerate Chatham high street from the government's 'Future High Streets Fund', and again where was the money for Gillingham? And finally when the draft local was published, all the plans for high street redevelopment were in Chatham and Strood, and Gillingham was barely mentioned at all.

We understand Chatham needs help, but let's not forget that Gillingham high street is facing the same problems. With the recent announcement that WH Smith's is shutting its store, there is a real threat that the high street will loose its post office. A number of shops are empty, as rents and business rates are too high for many shop owners. And yet this high street is vital for a large portion of Medway's residents.

Stuart Bourne, Liberal Democrat spokesperson says, 'Medway Liberal Democrats have called on Medway council formulate a specific plan for Gillingham High street, which includes a longterm vision and details of potential funding sources for redevelopment. We call on them to ensure that when the next applications for the government's 'Levelling Up' funds come around, projects in Gillingham are given a priority. And finally we call on them to identify key buildings on Gillingham High street that can purchased to ensure businesses have access to premises without extortionate rents.