Small business support is a joke

Last month the various District Councils of Somerset are sending out messages. They wanted to tell you all about the support they could give to small businesses.

Firstly: this was not their fault. No support is actually provided by the District Councils. They were simply dispensing government funds locally. They were doing so to government rules.

Secondly: we are not looking for sympathy. At Leveller Towers we had already taken precautions to maximise our chance of survival. We were acutely aware many small businesses in Somerset have had it much worse than we did.

That said, we want to illustrate why the government scheme to support small business was nonsensical. And there are many small businesses in Somerset have not been supported as they should.

We are a free newspaper. We depend on two things. Advertising revenue from local businesses, mostly small family businesses. And secondly on having outlets we can get out paper to our readers through. Being a free paper, we don’t use many newsagents. We do use, pubs, community halls, church porches post offices and the like.

However under the government rules we could stay open. We had the right to operate as usual. So we did not qualify for financial support.

But nearly all our customers had been closed down for lockdown. So we had no significant income.

And around 75% of our outlets were closed during the lockdown.

So a business with no meaningful source of revenue and no distribution is allowed to carry on trading and of course therefore fails to qualify for business support.

We are not alone in this view. In a letter to MP David Warburton Bruton Town Council complained “Our local independent shops that have recently deemed ‘non-essential’ have had to watch during their core Christmas trading period, while larger competitors such as Tesco and Amazon continue to deliver to Bruton. They are rightly asking for
Government to provide a “level playing field” to prevent us losing the independent retail sector that Somerset residents and visitors so value
.” And by way of example they go on to mention one business in particular “We have previously spoken about the particular restrictions experienced by Bruton outdoor education centre, Mill on the Brue, which has had to endure a 98% loss of income ever since the first national Lockdown in March.

You will forgive us if we suggest that this government is devoid of business understanding. Once upon a time the Conservatives were the party of business. Today you’d be hard put to find an MP, excepting Mr Warburton, that has even the most basic understanding of how business works.

2 comments

  • Teresa Sienkiewicz

    ‘The Times’ reported last month that HMRC has warned that it expects fraud of up to £4.2 billion in the government’s furlough scheme, so it is just appalling to see that businesses like ‘The Leveller’ are being so unfairly treated. The Government should rectify this injustice immediately.

  • Hi Andrew, I’ve just taken over the Chair of Somerton and Business Trading Association – be good to have you back in the fold at some point. I am deeply concerned the government is targeting small business to give market preference to big business. I’d be interested to see the net tax income by business size, just saying.

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