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Autumn Statement: Small Businesses Call for Support

Small businesses in the south of England are calling on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to offer measures that will support them in his Autumn Statement.

Like most shopping areas, Shirley High Street in Southampton has seen a number of shops closing down in recent times.

Wilko shut its doors in September and New Look is set to close in December.

But there are new ventures.

The owners of three new businesses told the BBC about the challenges they face and what Mr Hunt could do to help.

‘Rising prices are a challenge’

Gita Robinson, 53, opened her first shop – Bula Hardware – in August.

She said: “We wanted to help the local community by bringing back traditional shops to the High Street.

“We have had a positive response and the business has really grown during the last three months.”

But she said rising prices were a challenge.

“We have struggled with the increasing costs of running our business but we try to keep prices low for customers during this hard time,” she said.

Mrs Robinson said she found there was a lack of information when she started the business and she believes the government could help encourage shops to open up by offering more support.

‘I’d like to see corporation tax lowered’

High rents have pushed some businesses off the High Street, according to chef Aaron Stevens, who runs Culture Caff, which opened last month.

Mr Stevens, 38, said some rents were “ridiculous” but his landlord would rather have units occupied and offered a reasonable rate.

The Caribbean-inspired food at the new cafe is a passion project, made possible by money Mr Stevens has earned in a separate road traffic management company.

He said he would like to see corporation tax – the tax businesses pay on profits- lowered for “the small guys like me”.

‘Relief on business rates would be welcome’

The newest business on Shirley High Street is specialist craft ale house Craft 101, which opened last week.

Owner Glenn Johnson, 48, brews beer on the Isle of Wight and was looking for an outlet on the mainland.

Mr Johnson has transformed an old bicycle shop called The Hub. He used redundancy money to get started after leaving a job in IT.

He said: “You only live once and I fell in love with the character of the venue.

“The Hub is a historic landmark in Shirley and it’s an area that’s thriving.”

He said continued relief on business rates would be a welcome move from the Chancellor.

‘Consumer spending is down’

Mr Johnson’s call was echoed by the British Independent Retailers Association.

Chief executive Andrew Goodacre said: “In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor has to ensure that indie retailer and small businesses in general are not burdened by more costs.

“Consumer spending is down, large retailers are doing even deeper discounts and putting pressure on margins and so the last thing a small retailer needs is increased costs.

“We are therefore asking the Chancellor to freeze business rates next year and retain the 75% retail and hospitality discount.

“Without the discount, we fear that there will be many more business closures and hardworking people will lose their livelihoods.”

Source : BBC