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Labour have been lazily attacking the Conservatives as the "do nothing" party in regard to dealing with the country’s financial crisis.

Today saw another promise of action from the Conservative frontbench in the form of a practical measure which could be implemented specifically to help small businesses.

Shadow Communities and Local Government secretary, Caroline Spelman, has pledged to ensure that small business rate relief (which was introduced in 2005 to allow small businesses to claim a discount of up to 50% on business rates) be applied automatcially to firms in England – as has been the case in Wales since 2007.

Her pledge was made to support Tory backbencher Peter Luff’s Private Member’s Bill which would legislate for the proposal, thereby saving huge amounts of time and bureaucracy involved in filling in the forms to claim the relief.

In some regions of the country, more than two thirds of eligible businesses have not been claiming what they were due.

Mrs Spelman has said:

“Small shops and businesses are facing tough times in Labour’s recession. These firms, from corner shops to local pubs, are the lifeblood of local communities. A responsible government would do more to help them. Yet Gordon Brown is making it as difficult for small firms to claim the tax relief to which they are entitled. He is compounding their misery by finding new ways to drive up business rates by stealth. Conservatives would ensure that small firms automatically receive rate relief, cutting their paperwork and their tax bills and giving many of them a fighting chance to stay afloat.”

Who could disagree with that?

Jonathan Isaby

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