Political heavyweights visit Oswestry businesses during by-election campaigning

The political heavyweights have been in Oswestry this weekend to canvas on Small Business Saturday.

Michael Gove and Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst on the campaign trail in Oswestry. Photo: @DrNShastriHurst
Michael Gove and Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst on the campaign trail in Oswestry. Photo: @DrNShastriHurst

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, two shadow ministers, and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey were in the market town on Saturday to put forward their parties' support for businesses ahead of the North Shropshire by-election later this month.

Their visits have come 24 hours after the Prime Minister went to an Oswestry pharmacy while on the campaign trail for the Conservatives..

Mr Gove said the Government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone had given the town £700,000 to investment in its historic town centre and local businesses.

He visited the historic Black Gate building, which secured a grant to become the Niche Patisserie Bakery and Café run by former Bake Off semi-finalist Adam Cleal.

He said: "The Government has introduced a range of measures to help local businesses and high streets, including Covid grants, lower business rates and targeted support like the Heritage Action Zone funding scheme. So I was thrilled to see that support paying off for local businesses and high streets in North Shropshire."

Tory candidate, Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst, said: "Government investment is making a big difference to North Shropshire, not just with the Heritage Action Zone but also with the new Mile End roundabout and the extra police officers on our streets."

The opposition parties said the government had forgotten small businesses.

Labour's newly appointed Shadow Minister for Business and International Trade, Bill Esterson, and Shadow Transport Minister, Tan Dhesi, toured Oswestry market in support of their party's candidate, Ben Wood.

Mr Esterson said: "Oswestry seems to be thriving with a wealth of small, independent shops and wonderful local produce. However many small businesses across Britain including north Shropshire, struggle because of business rates.

"Labour would freeze business rates which would save businesses £4,000 a year. This taxation is unfair on small businesses."

Mr Wood said business owners had been telling him the tax was unfair. He said better public transport links would also help small businesses, bring people into North Shropshire towns to shop.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has made his fourth visit to North Shropshire since the start of the by-election campaign.

He said: "Business rates are an old fashioned and unfair tax. While huge companies get away without paying their fair share, the burden falls on the small businesses. It is an unfair playing field and an analogue tax in a digital age."

This was echoed by Simon Curtis, chair of the party's business and entrepreneur network, who joined Ed Davey in the town.

Liberals Democrat candidate, Helen Morgan, said: "I know of businesses in North Shropshire who struggle because of this unfair tax. We want to help small businesses across the constituency."

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