Mark Harper is MP for Forest of Dean, shadow minister for disabled people and a chartered accountant by training. Here he explains why he is running recession survival workshops for businesses in his constituency.
We enter 2009 with an economic crisis that may well result in a deeper recession than this country has seen for many years. Whilst all major economies are being affected by the current crisis, Britain will be one of the hardest hit. Under Gordon Brown’s watch, we now have the largest budget deficit and highest level of personal debt in the developed world.
The Government’s solution to the economic crisis is to saddle the next generation with an even larger mountain of debt by reckless borrowing to unprecedented levels. Government debt is rising to such an extent that every baby born in Britain today starts life owing £17,000 – a point very effectively made by the poster campaign launched earlier this week by David Cameron.
Action is needed to help the British economy out of this recession, but it must be the right action, not recklessly doubling our national debt. The most pressing task is to get banks lending to the real economy again, not creating an even bigger black hole in our public finances which will take years to pay off.
Action at the local level is also important. In rural areas, such as my constituency of the Forest of Dean, local businesses are the life blood of the economy. They are suffering from the shortage of credit in the economy and loss of custom as households rein back on expenditure.
That’s why I have decided to organise a recession survival workshop for local businesses in the Forest of Dean. As a Chartered Accountant, I know how important it is for businesses to keep their cash flow steady. As businesses will be looking at how to manage their finances most efficiently and may have problems accessing credit, it is really important that local businesses know that there is support and advice available. I have asked Mike Warburton, a leading expert on tax and finance from Grant Thornton, to explain some of the current challenges that companies are likely to face and what they can do to tackle these problems. We will also be joined by a local Lloyds TSB Commercial manager who will contribute advice on how businesses can mange their finances through the downturn.
Local government also has an important role in supporting business. In our second session on business support, Julie Girling, a Gloucestershire County Councillor and Cabinet member (and European Parliamentary Candidate for the South West), will inform people about the support that is available from the County Council and Gloucestershire First – the economic wing of the Council.
These workshops will give local business people a chance to raise some of the problems that they are facing at this very difficult time and receive answers from the experts. I hope it will be an opportunity for some stimulating discussion and practical help for local businesses.