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THERE is no doubt about it, we are going through very difficult economic times and I don't believe the situation is going to improve very rapidly.

THERE is no doubt about it, we are going through very difficult economic times and I don't believe the situation is going to improve very rapidly. Many of us will not have experienced such an economic down turn that is now affecting so many aspects of our lives.

Across the borough, many families rely on the continued success of the many small businesses that abound here - small businesses really are the lifeblood of our community.I am getting frequent calls and letters from business owners in my constituency describing how they are being affected - whether it's their banks increasing interest rates or even withdrawing over-draft facilities or businesses either end of their supply chain getting into difficulty therefore having a knock on effect.

There are a number of actions that can be taken by Government to help alleviate the situation. Many suggestions have been put forward including:

* Cutting small business corporation tax rate from 22p to 20p

* Letting small and medium sized businesses to defer their VAT bills, for up to six months

* Cutting National Insurance by one per cent for all businesses with fewer than five employees

In my constituency, whether its in Balsall Common, Chelmsley Wood, Dorridge, Hockley Heath or Knowle I have a number of small shops that are a vital part of community life. Research has shown that fewer than half of eligible firms are claiming Small Business Rate Relief.

The reason is that many of them simply don't know it exists. Yet it could save local shops up to £1,100 per annum. There is now a simple online tool to help firms check their eligibility and print off the form. This can be accessed at http://www.conservatives.-com/smallshops/.

Our shops and businesses are facing tough times but they are the life blood of our economy and our community. I want to help them and this new online tool is simple way small firms can survive.

 

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