Labour frontbencher quizzed by traders

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Traders quizzed shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna about Labour’s pledges to help struggling businesses during a visit to Cleveleys.

Mr Umunna said Labour policies to cut business rates and freeze energy prices would support small enterprises which he described as “the lifeblood” of the local economy.

He told the Gazette: “The rates rules have clobbered so many of the traders round here so there is lots of enthusiasm for our policy to cut business rates and freeze energy costs.

“There also needs to be a general strategy to regenerate the area and take it to the new modern era we are in.

“It is about how the town sells itself and that includes having the infrastructure to attract the tourism the area has traditionally relied on.”

Mr Umanna said Labour’s plans to cut business rates would save around £400 per small business premises over the next two years.

But he accepted proposals to increase the minimum wage to £8 an hour over the course of the next Parliament might add an additional burden to small businesses.

He added: “We recognise sometimes increasing the minimum wage can be a challenge for small businesses and that’s why we are putting it on a four- to five-year framework.

“They will also get the benefit of people having more money in their pocket and therefore more money to spend.”

Sam Rushworth, Labour candidate for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: “Labour’s plans to cut business rates, lower energy bills, and devolve power and finance is essential to give our local small businesses a boost and drive economic development.”

Martin Hunns, owner of the Carousel Cafe in Cleveleys, said: “Many businesses are struggling because all our costs are going up.”

Also standing for the Blackpool North and Cleveleys seat at the General Election are: Paul Maynard (Conservative), Sue Close (Lib Dem), Simon Noble (UKIP), James Walsh (Northern Party) and John Warnock (Green Party).