Westminster column with Sir Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon

By The Post  
Saturday 26th June 2021 10:15 am
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BRITISH businesses are the backbone of our nation’s economy.

Here in Torridge and West Devon, local business sectors — farming, tourism, and hospitality, for example — create jobs and opportunity. It is only right that I and my parliamentary colleagues continue to encourage investment in them.

Locally, I have met business organisations, visited local businesses, and spoken regularly to business owners since the beginning of the pandemic, encouraging them to use the available government support. It is very encouraging that businesses have been able to make the most of these packages, using them to develop new strategies and to prepare for the eventual lifting of all restrictions. I know that the pandemic support we have provided could not protect every job and every business in this time of hardship but, as we emerge from the grip of the disease, we are finding the economy bouncing back strongly from its hibernation because of the measures we have put in place.

More generally, it is good to see that — to encourage job creation — the Government has also committed to new investment in infrastructure and levelling up parts of the UK to ensure nowhere is left behind as we recover from COVID-19 and build back better. At the 2020 spending review the Government announced £100-billion of capital investment in 2021/22, a £30-billion cash increase compared to 2019/20. This is the next stage in plans to spend over £600-billion in gross public investment over the next five years.

Our rural and coastal market towns desperately require regeneration. I have lost no chance of reminding my colleagues in the Government that, just like many of the neglected areas in the North, Torridge is long overdue for this investment. Therefore, I was very pleased to see Torridge awarded ‘priority one’ status for the Government’s £4.8-billion Levelling Up and Community Renewal Fund. I am working closely with Torridge District Council to secure more than £10-million from this fund. I have composed the foreword to the bid and written personally to the Secretary of State. If successful, our bid will create the largest single investment ever seen in Bideford — the Isaac’s Yard project — which will seek to create a co-working space and a vibrant cultural centre, transforming the heart of the town.

As we emerge from the pandemic, it is still more important that we back British businesses. The VAT cut to 5% will continue throughout the summer season and business rates will continue to be suspended until the end of June, after which businesses will only have to pay one third of their usual liability until March 2022. In addition, we have set up a scheme for Restart Grants of up to £18,000 for the hospitality, retail, personal care and leisure sectors.

If you would like to learn more about Restart Grants, you can view the scheme’s details and check your business’ eligibility at www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-youre-eligible-for-a-coronavirus-restart-grant

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