Liberal Democrat candidates response to election questions from businesses

Following the COMBEbusiness event on Wednesday 1 April, when businesses from Combe Martin, Ilfracombe and Woolacombe listed the issues they want candidates in the forthcoming town/parish, district and national elections to address, below is the response from Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Sir Nick Harvey.

COMBEbusiness thanks him for taking the time to consider the questions and to reply.

Liberal Democrat responses

These are the responses to the wishlist and questions put to all candidates:

VAT

I strongly support a cut in VAT for tourist business from 20 per cent to 5 per cent, which has been implemented by 25 of the 28 EU member states already – they have taken advantage of this flexibility and so should we if we want to stay competitive. I have been involved with the national Cut Tourism VAT campaign and locally when John Fowler started this campaign 10 years ago. Tourist businesses are caught between a rock and a hard place when in either staying just below the threshold and absorbing costs themselves or hiking prices up which potentially deters visitors. There is a great deal in this for UK PLC if we could just look a little further ahead and wean the treasury off the thought of where the next pound is coming from. It would cost money in the first year but by year three it is making money and making £3-4billion a year within a decade. Nearly everyone in the UK would benefit from this.

Business rates

I agree that we need a much fairer system than the current outdated model. In Government the Lib Dems have put £1bn in to reducing the cost of business rates in this financial year for small businesses and pushed for a fundamental review of business rates which is ongoing. Our policy is to extend this so it also consider the implementation of Land Value Tax (a tax on the unimproved value of land, favoured by many economists).

Bus services

Cuts to bus services are concerning. People obviously want regular services on key routes but often these services run with very few passengers which is hugely inefficient. As local businesspeople suggest, high quality market research into local people’s travel requirements is key to getting this right in an era of squeezed council budgets.

Cuts to bus subsidies nationally have made things far more difficult for rural bus operators. I would like to see the costs of this to central government absorbed by a number of departments – e.g. Transport, Work and Pensions and the Treasury – because rural bus services are so key to achieving many of the Government’s objectives i.e. getting people to work and training and improving the local economy.

Business support and funding

With them covering such a huge geographical area it is certainly the case that the Heart of the South West LEP need constant pressure to focus on North Devon, which I have been exerting over the course of the last Parliament and will continue to do if elected. We must also keep taking advantage of schemes like the Regional Growth Fund and opportunities like Assisted Areas, secured last year to boost North Devon’s manufacturing industries as these are vital boosts to business. North Devon Council should get right behind North Devon Marketing Bureau’s initiative. There is a huge amount of potential if we can increase the fairly scarce resources it is currently working with.

Parking

I am frequently contacted by a number of business owners in Barnstaple and Ilfracombe about heavy-handed parking enforcement by a few specific individuals. This is something I have tried to take up with the council: it is counter-productive as the perception of parking attending is very negative, it is a headache for businesses who may occasionally run just over their allocated time for loading and unloading and are regularly saddled with fines. The whole system of parking charges and enforcement needs a thorough review.

Environment

Increasing citizen involvement in maintaining the environment is vital – a national guide would be an excellent initiative, and local variations even better – so for areas like Woolacombe with specific environmental features and needs there would be far more clarity on what people could do to help. Already we have a number of great initiatives locally like Tidy Our Town and the Big Beach Clean which really stimulate involvement in the community and environment for people of all ages. More local support for and advertising of these initiatives would be good place to start.

Other party responses

Click to read the responses from candidates from Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP parties.