Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, has said that the Conservatives "have failed small businesses in Oxfordshire", after figures revealed that 8,755 businesses in the county closed over the last three years.
It comes after the Liberal Democrats on Saturday unveiled a series of measures to reverse this decline and boost local firms, to mark Small Business Saturday.
Recent figures show that 8,755 closed in Oxfordshire between 2016 and 2018, a 10.8% increase compared to the three years before that.
Across the UK, one million businesses have closed their doors between 2016 and 2018, an increase of almost a third compared to 2013- 2015.
The Federation of Small Businesses has warned that a no deal Brexit, which Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out, would mean more damage to firms. Firms are also being held back by the Conservative government's failure to reform business rates, and by new taxes on the self-employed that business groups have described as "disastrous".
Liberal Democrats have said that they will stop Brexit and invest the £50 billion Remain Bonus in improving public services and tackling inequality. The party would also put in place a package of measures to support small businesses and boost high streets in Oxfordshire, including:
- Creating a new ‘start-up allowance’ to support those starting new businesses with their living costs in the crucial first weeks of the business.
- Increasing mentoring support to small business owners
- Requiring Government agencies and larger firms to sign up to a new, enforceable, prompt payment code to ensure that small businesses never again suffer because of large businesses failing to pay on time.
- Expanding the Future High Streets Fund to support the redevelopment of more town centres and high streets.
- Supporting the development of the skills small businesses need by reforming the apprenticeship levy to become a skills and training levy where 25% of being targeted at areas with the greatest skills needs.
Commenting on the figures, Layla Moran said:
“Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party have failed small businesses in Oxfordshire, saddling them with years of Brexit uncertainty and ignoring urgent calls to reform business rates. Having spent Small Business Saturday dropping into some of our community's local shops in Abingdon and Kidlington, it's clear that something needs to change.
“A staggering 8,755 local businesses have closed their doors under the Conservative government’s watch. Each business closing represents jobs, investment and opportunities lost to our area.
“Now Boris Johnson wants to plunge small businesses into even more uncertainty and worry by pursuing a Brexit plan that risks yet another No Deal cliff edge in December 2020. They have lost any right to call themselves the party of business.
“The Liberal Democrats will rescue our high streets and boost local businesses by stopping Brexit, scrapping outdated business rates and introducing more support for entrepreneurs.”