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Shadow minister hears of challenges facing business owners

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On Saturday, Darren Jones MP, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, spent the morning visiting shops in Stroud town centre, talking to business owners and hearing about the pressures they face.

Mr Jones said: “Our high streets are under enormous pressure at the moment. This is especially true in more rural areas such as Stroud and Berkeley Vale. Internet sales have eroded their markets and cut profit margins. At the moment, the retail sector is not a level playing field. That’s why a Labour Government is planning to reform business rates and replace them with a fairer system that will help shops on the high streets.”

Simon Opher Darren jones 7 | Shadow minister hears of challenges facing business owners
Dr Simon Opher (left) and Darren Jones MP in Kendrick Street, Stroud.

Dr Simon Opher, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Stroud said: “The future of our high streets in the Stroud area is of huge importance to local people. In Stroud itself, as well as the High Street in Stonehouse, Parsonage Street in Dursley, Long Street in Wotton-under-Edge, and in centres across the district, our retailers are under huge pressure. Labour’s plan to reform business rates is a genuine shot in the arm for local shops.”

Simon Opher Darren jones 1 | Shadow minister hears of challenges facing business owners
Dr Simon Opher (left), Darren Jones MP and Tony Davey.

Darren was shown around Stroud town centre by Tony Davey, the Chair of the Stroud and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, who owns Party on Up on Stroud’s London Road, said: “Reform of business rates is long overdue and would certainly help our struggling retail sector.”

Simon Opher Darren jones 5 | Shadow minister hears of challenges facing business owners
Darren Jones met Andy Bateman of Bateman Sports.

Andy Bateman, who owns Batemans Sports shop, a family business that dates back to the 19th century, cited business rates as well as the fact that he has to charge VAT on adult-sized school uniform as a drag on business. He said that he is feeling the pinch with these and other costs placing a squeeze on profits.

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Peter Elmes (left) of Confection Affection with Darren Jones Mp and Dr Simon Opher.

Confection Affection, on Threadneedle street, has seen profits hit by Brexit. Owner Peter Elms was also concerned with charity outlets that were given rates rebates while he was forced to pay fuller business rates. He said: “All we’re asking for is a level playing field to operate in. At the moment, we are disadvantaged by a number of factors. Business has to be fair for all of us. I welcome the reform of business rates.”

Simon Opher Darren jones 9 | Shadow minister hears of challenges facing business owners
Dr Simon Opher and Darren Jones MP met Tom Berry, owner of Sound Records.

Tom Berry, who owns Sound Records on George Street felt that Stroud was in a position to prosper as a unique shopping experience. “I like the fact that Labour are proposing using empty high street premises to support start-ups so that younger people can be encouraged to try out new business ventures. People like variety and specialist shops. We get shoppers from Bristol and even Reading coming to buy records.”

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Dr Simon Opher, Alan Jones, Darren Jones and Tony Davey toured businesses in Stroud.

Dr Opher said: “I am determined to improve our local high streets. With rates cuts and plans to open empty shops, together with a crackdown on antisocial behaviour, our local high streets will begin to flourish again. I personally have shopped for years in Dursley, and the variety of shops on Long Street in Wotton is fantastic. But local business needs our help. It’s all about creating and maintaining our community wealth locally”.

Pictures by Matt Bigwood

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