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We asked you to suggest questions for candidates for the 2015 General Election. We cobbled together what we thought were a representative sample of seven and duly sent them on. We received personal responses from all the candidates except UKIP’s Ian Guiver (although we did receive a copy of a UKIP policy document from Ian’s party’s head office, which we’ve used for UKIP’s slant on our questions).

We’d like to thank all the candidates who responded for their thoughtful, considered (and sometimes lengthy!) responses to our questions.

This blog is a summary of their responses for the first of these questions.

Blogs for the subsequent six questions – on issues such as rewilding, economic growth and transport – will be published every few days leading up to the election. Candidate responses are given in alphabetical order (by party name), rotated for each question. The full, unedited responses for this question are available in this document: Candidates Responses-Q1.

Please get involved and tell us what you think. What’s your reaction to what they have to say? Has this made you change your vote? Whatever you think, and however you’re casting your vote, we hope you find these blogs interesting, helpful and informative.

What steps would you take to encourage and promote the growth of local businesses in towns such as New Mills?

Andrew Bingham (Conservative)

As a former small business owner, Andrew feels passionately about this issue. He says, “The centre of New Mills, like many other towns and villages across the High Peak, is vital for the local economy and also the social cohesion of our local community so the [measures proposed by the Conservatives] will provide great help in many ways to the local communities.”

He points to a range of measures that the government has introduced to help businesses, such as capping rates and providing reliefs for smaller businesses. There is a commitment to implement a £1bn package to reduce the cost of business rates in 2015-16, with particular support for the smallest businesses and the high street, and a National Insurance cut for small businesses which will allow businesses to hire extra staff more cheaply.

Rate discounts have been introduced to encourage people to re-occupy shops that have been empty for a long period of time and Andrew says he is “confident this will help decrease the number of vacant shops and encourage thriving and diverse town centres”. Additionally, Andrew is keen that parking charges should not undermine the vitality of town centres and points out that the previous administration’s policy, which pressured councils to “hike” car parking charges, has been scrapped as have restrictions on the provision of off-street parking spaces.

Charlotte Farrell (Green)

Charlotte says that the Green Party wants to encourage small businesses which are responsive to their local area and founded within that local area. This would be achieved through:

  • The staged abolition of employers’ national insurance which would help smaller employers taking on staff and in paying the living wage, paid for by increasing corporation tax to that of the EU average.
  • Community banks which would recycle money within the local economy, lending money at preferential rates to local business rather than forcing them to go to the big banks.
  • Encouragement of new co-operatives through a development fund which would provide start-up capital on a match-funded basis.
  • Legislation making all invoices payable within 30 days which would help smaller more income-reliant businesses.
  • Recognition of the importance of self-employment, through support via the Citizens Income.
  • Clear support from local government for small businesses and local retail, such as advice and specialist training.
  • Robust action to support local markets and prevent the domination of big supermarkets.
  • A requirement on local government to favour local suppliers and traders.

Caitlin Bisknell (Labour)

Caitlin says that Labour will cut business rates for 1.5 million small business properties and then freeze them the following year. It would also establish a British Investment Bank to boost lending to small firms. This would benefit seventeen times as many businesses as opposed to the further Conservative-planned cut in corporation tax for large firms.

Labour also plans to strengthen the Green Investment Bank, which will help and promote local businesses and press for faster roll out of broadband, still an issue in rural areas.

Caitlin also notes that under her leadership High Peak Borough Council has set up its own Growth Fund specifically to help establish and expand local micro and small businesses.

Stephen Worrall (Liberal Democrats)

Stephen says the Liberal Democrats would use the Regional Growth Fund to particularly target local businesses; devolve economic decision-making away from central government to local government, enabling local government to identify better what is needed by local business; and review business rates which fall disproportionately on small local businesses and move towards taxes based on Site Value Rating in the short term and a Land Value Tax in the long term.

UKIP

UKIP says that businesses should be able to discriminate in favour of young British workers; that it would encourage councils to provide more free parking for the high street; simplify planning regulations and licences for empty commercial properties that are vacant for over a year; and extend the right of appeal for micro businesses against HMRC action.

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