As some of you might know, I’ve been running an annual Local Business Awards for the past few years now. They celebrate all the great businesses across my constituency and the contribution that they make to the local community. Last year I received over 4,000 nominations for over 250 different businesses, from barbers, bars and beauty salons to cafes, cake shops and car dealerships. It was fantastic to see such a wide variety of businesses represented, including some very successful specialist businesses that many locals may not have heard of, but that have national or even international reach.
This year, of course, things are a bit different. Many – if not most – of our great local businesses are in real difficulties. These businesses bring us together, but the pandemic keeps us apart. Although times have been tough for businesses across the country, those in Greater Manchester have faced particular difficulties as a result of twelve long and difficult weeks in local lockdown, with no additional support from the Government.
I’m not the only one to notice that this support suddenly materialised when London went into local measures. Extra funding was apparently impossible when it was only cities and towns in the North and Midlands that were affected and then overnight the Chancellor managed to find billions down the back of the Treasury sofa. Stranger still when, at the start of the same week, the Government refused to provide even a tiny fraction of this when Andy Burnham asked for it to support businesses and workers here in Greater Manchester.
Putting this aside, I am very pleased that the Chancellor has agreed to make this funding retrospective for areas who had local lockdowns. I am concerned that it will be too late for many great businesses, and I urged him in Parliament to make the funds available as soon as possible to stop others from falling under while they wait.
In this context, I think it’s more important than ever to celebrate our favourite local businesses and recognise what they mean to us and our communities. When we finally leave lockdown, we will flock to these businesses to see friends and family, and have fun. Until then, I’d encourage you to go to my website and nominate your favourites within the Denton and Reddish constituency.
Our business community needs our support now more than ever.