This week saw the removal of the final COVID-19 restrictions in England, signalling a return to something resembling the “old normal” after two years of lockdowns and restrictions. COVID-19 was not only a major healthcare crisis, but an economic one. British business was drastically impacted, and many small businesses struggled to stay afloat. Restaurants and pubs faced constant uncertainty, while both retail and hospitality contended with staffing issues and snap closures.

British business is vital both to the economy and to local communities, providing employment and places to meet and socialise. During the pandemic, two thirds of small businesses saw their revenue fall.

The success of the COVID-19 vaccine has been a major help for business, and it is important that continues to support local businesses now that restrictions have eased. We are lucky to have so many fantastic local businesses in Barnsley that deserve our full support.

However, revitalising small business in Barnsley will require more than local shoppers hitting the high street. We are all feeling the pinch as prices start to rise, with inflated food, fuel, and energy prices on top of 15 tax rises introduced by the Tory Government, more than any Chancellor has introduced in the past 50 years. Government support for small business is also ending in April, despite the continuing effects of the pandemic and the difficulties of post-Brexit trading.

Labour has a plan for revitalising the economy. Keir Starmer recently outlined our focus for boosting British business, including revitalising the places that once powered Britain, ending the era of insecure employment, and driving up productivity and wages. Labour plans to take advantage of the opportunities of Brexit and to support private enterprise in order to rebuild the economy. The priority of any government should be creating an economy based on security, prosperity, and respect for all, and this is exactly what a Labour Government would aim to deliver.

We would also deal with rising household costs by; removing VAT from gas and electric bills, increasing the warm homes discount to extend targeted support to those who need it most, and supporting local authorities to help residents insulate their homes to save money on bills.

As we all start to feel the pinch of sharply rising prices, we need action from the Government now, instead of their steadfast refusal to acknowledge that we are walking headlong into a cost-of-living crisis.

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