Rishi Sunak quizzed by Richmond constituent
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been confronted by one of his own North Yorkshire constituents, who called into his LBC phone-in to slam the Government for allowing numerous businesses to close.
Jo Foster, who runs an aromatherapy company in the PM’s constituency, criticised the Government for crashing the economy, resulting in businesses closing.
Ms Foster cited recent news that four well-established independent businesses near here are shutting up shop, as keeping going is “no longer financially possible”.
“Many more are on the brink, and asked why… they’re quoting your Tory policies as the reason why; everything from increased taxes, soaring costs, impact of Brexit, difficulty finding staff, all combined with the fact it was your Government that crashed the economy and left people without any disposable income to spend.”
The Prime Minister appeared to know Ms Foster from previous interactions, saying it was “always lovely to hear from you!”
“Jo and I don’t – as you can probably tell – share the same politics, we’ve had healthy debates on Brexit in the past… she was very upset that I supported Brexit but I think that was the right thing to do.”
He added: “I don’t think that’s the reason that some businesses are struggling at the moment”.
Mr Sunak instead blamed energy bills and inflation for the struggles businesses are facing, saying that when he’s out meeting owners of businesses energy bills are “obviously a big challenge at the moment – thankfully they are coming down”.
He conceded that access to staff is a particular concern, not just in rural areas like his home of North Yorkshire, but said Tory reforms to the welfare system would increase the supply of labour.
LBC’s Nick Ferrari intervened to cite a Guardian newspaper story from yesterday, which detailed some of the closing businesses in his constituency: York House antiques, The Fleece Hotel, Cross View Tearooms and Ravensworth Nurseries.
“In one of those businesses they’re losing £10,000 a month and to quote the business owner: ‘nobody is buying anything’. There’s no cash, Prime Minister!”
Mr Sunak said every business will have “slightly different circumstances”, and said just yesterday at the London Beer Festival where he’d been pulling pints and speaking to publicans he heard footfall is increasing in pubs and many were telling him “business is good”.
He said it’s “obviously sad” businesses in his own back yard are having to close, especially as he knows a couple of them personally.
Mr Sunak pointed out he comes from a “small business family”, and he knows what it takes to run a small business.
“I did her books, that’s what I did growing up, I did my mum’s accounts, made sure we could meet payroll.
“We did that for years and years, so I grew up in a small business, I cleaned the shop at the weekend on Sundays.”
Mr Ferrari pointed out his anecdote “isn’t going to help the Fleece Hotel or the Ravensworth Nursery”.
The Prime Minister pointed out that this year the Government is giving them a 75 percent reduction on their business rates bill, saying that’s a “massive saving worth thousands of pounds for a typical small retailer, cafe or pub”.
He also said the Government has changed rules around employers’ National Insurance meaning 40 percent of businesses no longer pay it.
MORE TO COME…
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