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Opinion: How can any business survive in this current climate without more government support?

A village cafe owner has been forced to make the heartbreaking decision to close partly because of a lack of support but also because of the ridiculous costs associated with running a small business.

With energy bills set to soar again, high business rates, rent rises, and the costs of raw materials going up, in some cases as much as 50%, it is in fact a miracle that more of our small businesses are not facing the same fate – although I suspect many are on the verge.

How the government can expect businesses to carry on in the face of such challenging circumstances I don’t know.

Caroline Barnes pictured far right on the cafe's official opening day - after three years she has had to call it a day.
Caroline Barnes pictured far right on the cafe's official opening day - after three years she has had to call it a day.

I understand that businesses need customers, and if people are not prepared to give their support that is a basic problem.

Britain has always prided itself on its reputation of being a nation of shopkeepers, but sadly that is fast becoming a thing of the past.

There is barely a week go by in our area without a shop or business closing having found the current conditions just too hard to keep going.

If we are to have any local shops, cafes, pubs, and restaurants left then it really is up to us to get out there and support them.

However, I also understand that it is often easier to order that new top or item from an online store and have it delivered to your doorstep than to go out looking for what you want on the high street.

I also understand that things are tough for all of us right now, all the problems businesses are facing with rising costs, we are all facing in our own homes.

Pay has failed to keep pace with inflation, we no longer have so much disposable cash, and therefore going out to eat, or to enjoy a coffee and a slice of cake is a luxury that can only be enjoyed from time to time and not on a regular basis.

That’s why the government needs to have a look to see what it can do to offer some support to our small entrepreneurs – after all, they do boast that they are the party for business.

One of the things the owner of Cafe 29 in Manea attributed to making things difficult to keep going was the VAT bill she faced.

She believes that raising the VAT threshold by just £20,000 or £30,000 a year would be a massive bonus for businesses like hers and could be the difference between closing and remaining open.

During the pandemic, the government stepped up to the plate and offered businesses massive support which meant they continued once it had passed.

Our businesses are now facing a crisis of a different kind, but nonetheless serious, so maybe it is time for the government to step up once more.

I get they can’t go handing out grants like they did previously, there comes a point where there really isn’t enough money to keep doing that.

But reducing the tax burden on small businesses is a way to help out, without hitting the government purse too harshly.

It is certainly something I think they should be looking at if we want our businesses to continue and hopefully flourish, once the current cost of living crisis has passed.

Fingers crossed for us all that will happen sooner rather than later...

Planning permission has finally be granted meaning the eyesore that is the former Cashino Slots business on Wisbech Market Place can finally be sorted out.

Permission has been granted by planners for the partial demolition of the Grade II listed building – it has already taken 18 months to achieve that and it is only phase one. It is anticipated there will be three phases, each requiring its own planning permission.

One of the conditions of the permission is that work is started within the next three years (remember this is only phase one) – that means it could be 36 months before it gets underway, it is obviously going to take months to complete.

Then the owners will need to seek new permission for the second phase, which no doubt will have the same ridiculous time constraint put on it, and then the same cycle before we get to phase three.

All that means we could be looking at a decade before the work is finally completed.

Surely when someone puts in for planning permission they should have the funds etc to carry out the project they are seeking the go-ahead for.

Why three years before they have to start work? Who chose such an arbitrary number? Remember the emphasis is on starting work not completing it – for that there is no deadline.

That building is not only unsightly it is also a hazard, and so whoever owns it should be forced to get on with the necessary work as quickly as possible.

I would assume the building was insured and therefore I would expect money to not be a problem.

So why on earth would they need three years to start the work? Let’s hope they don’t take advantage of such a ridiculous condition, and actually do not only make a start soon but have the work completed well within those three years so they can then get on with phases two and three as quickly as possible…

Finally, last week Fenland District Council held its annual awards to recognise all those people and groups within our communities who get off their backsides week in and week out to make sure our towns and villages are litter-free and looking their best.

As you walk around the streets where you live and admire the hanging baskets and floral displays, or notice there is little litter remember it is volunteers who have made that happen.

Those selfless people who are happy to give up their time and do something that makes our environment better, so I would like to add my voice to the council’s and say thank you to those amazing individuals – you do a great job and it is appreciated…

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