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Rural Businesses

2005 Tachwedd 18 12:00 AM
Yn Mid Wales Journal

Every time I hear mention of the word Christmas at the moment I get that slightly panicky feeling. With less than five weeks to go I haven't even bought a card let alone made any other preparations for the festive season. I suspect however I am probably not alone, and that the lead up to Christmas can be a tense time for both families and business. The pressure to make everything perfect and pester power can force many people to accumulate debts that they'll be paying back for most of 2006. Recent official figures show that whilst we have slightly better unemployment figures than the Welsh average, we also have some of the lowest levels of pay. On average workers in Radnorshire are earning just £330.20 per week compared to £383.20 in the rest of Wales.

Retailers on the other hand will be hoping that we'll be digging deep into our pockets to help them make up for a slow year on the High Street. For without a doubt it has been a difficult year for business in Radnorshire whether it be for our local shops, tourism businesses, what's left of our manufacturing and the myriad of small one and two man bands that are the backbone of our local economy. The feedback I get from many companies is that the Government is not doing enough, or is not doing the right sort of things, to help them. In order to better campaign for small business in our area this month I have launched my Radnorshire business survey. I have already delivered many to businesses in Llandrindod Wells and Knighton and hope to get more out in the coming weeks. I know business people are inundated with paperwork but I am hoping that they will take the time to let me know the problems they are facing and more importantly what they think the Welsh Assembly Government should be doing to help them survive and prosper.

From the ones that have already been returned the high levels of Business Rates is of huge concern. Just like homeowners many companies have seen a big jump in their rates this year. In England there are has been a scheme to help soften the blow, but the Welsh Assembly Government has not been so forthcoming. What I think we need is a new form of rural rate relief. This should include a lower rate for our smallest companies and an emphasis on supporting vital businesses such as the last remaining pharmacy in town or the only shop or pub in the village. Sole independent traders don't have the luxury of large urban branches to subsidise them, so I believe in order to keep our high streets as vibrant and diverse as we have enjoyed in the past they too need extra help.

The WAG's policy at the moment reminds me of a polo mint, that is to say it has a hole in the middle. Its time that he realised that there is life north of Merthyr and south of Wrexham, Radnorshire has some fantastic entrepreneurs and some business gems just waiting to be discovered. What we need is the right kind of support and vision that the rest of Wales seems to enjoy.

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