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Council motion pledges support for businesses struggling with rising costs

Vale of White Horse councillors agreed to help support struggling local businesses and to urge government to do more for businesses affected by the cost of living crisis.

Following an approved motion, Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, will write to The Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to ask him to consider lengthening the energy cap period for small businesses and provide more direct support for the hospitality industry, particularly pubs and restaurants struggling with rising food and energy costs.

The council will also request that renewable energy grants are fast-tracked to help businesses move over to using more sustainable energy, such as solar panels, to help them become less reliant on mainstream energy suppliers. The council will also look at ways in which it can bid for government money to further support local businesses to reduce their energy usage.

During the pandemic, the council’s South and Vale Business Support team was able to help businesses by allocating and distributing £37.2 million of government grants to organisations in the district and provided a wide range of guidance.

To help businesses further, the council continues to work with partners to organise various events and has also introduced many more opportunities to support small and medium enterprises.

Cllr Hayleigh Gascoigne, district councillor for Blewbury and Harwell, who submitted the motion, said, “It’s very worrying to hear that according to the Federation of Small Businesses, nearly 53 per cent of small companies expect to stagnate, downsize or fold in the next year. We know that many local businesses were taken to the brink of collapse during the pandemic, particularly restaurants and pubs, and now they’re facing even greater problems.

“That’s why it was important this motion was approved. We need to do all we can to support our local businesses and ask the government to provide help as soon as possible.”

Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said, “Our South and Vale Business Support team worked very hard during the pandemic to help allocate funds and provide extra support all the businesses affected by closures, but on top of Covid, many of our small businesses are now either closing or at risk of closing due to spiralling energy prices. 

“I’ll be writing to the government to ask for more support for our local businesses, particularly in rural locations this winter. We will do all we can as a council but the challenges our businesses face are national ones that need an urgent national solution. In the medium term to help tackle climate change and ensure affordable and reliable energy sources for local businesses and homes, we need government investment in renewables and retrofitting to help reduce energy consumption.”

Working in partnership, the council also agreed to continue to work with other local organisations, such as the Future Oxfordshire Partnership and Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership to ensure business based across the Vale are considered when developing countywide enterprise programmes.