Earlier this year, and in response to the March Budget, I welcomed the focus from Government on leading a local business recovery. The last 18 months have been an unprecedented time for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Pubs, shops, restaurants, and cafes have come through a precipitous drop in footfall and revenue over the pandemic.
To help the recovery of our high streets, business rates are both being frozen and cut. This double whammy – the biggest business rates tax cut in 30 years – will see retail, hospitality and leisure businesses paying 50% less on their bills. Combined with the Small Business Rates Relief, this adds up to a tax cut worth £7 billion for 700,000 eligible businesses.
Sevenoaks’ fantastic business owners have worked very hard over the pandemic to make returning customers feel as safe and comfortable as possible. I know I’ll be doing my part to support our local shops and restaurants in the run up to Christmas, so I encourage you all to do the same where possible.
I also welcome measures announced to cut beer duty and review the wider system. After several years of the duty being frozen, this permanent reduction marks a turning point for a sector that was facing challenges long before COVID-19 hit. Having heard from a number of constituents in support of the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) campaign to cut beer duty, I know this particular announcement was very welcomed locally and it was great to meet with some of our local alcohol producers last week to hear how they will be benefiting.
The team at Squerryes were particularly pleased on the decision to remove the irrational duty premiums on English Sparking Wine, and it was very interesting to hear from Westerham Brewery about the new reduced draught beer duty. Whilst showing me around their new tap room, the team raised with me concerns regarding the keg size limits, and I will now be following this up in Westminster to see if this can be changed through the consultation process.
I also met Matthew, who opened Quercus Wines in 2018, and I was delighted to hear they will be opening a wine bar next door to their current shop in Westerham, where you will be able to buy and drink what he sells in the shop. Alongside the new shops opening in Sevenoaks, it is great to hear of more new arrivals and I have no doubt the store will complement the other brilliant establishments in Westerham such as Chow’s, No 17 Wine Bar, The Old Bank – together with Squerryes and Westerham Brewery on the outskirts of the town.
It is businesses that create jobs, and it is businesses that support employment. I want Sevenoaks district to be at the heart of this economic recovery and I am glad to see we are taking another step towards achieving this.