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Retail Trade: West Midlands

Business, Innovation and Skills written question – answered on 29th November 2011.

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Photo of Karen Lumley Karen Lumley Conservative, Redditch

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent steps his Department has taken to support the retail sector in the West Midlands.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

The Government are actively working to help all retailers including those in the West Midlands. Retail is vitally important to local and national economies. This was why it was chosen to be one of the first sectors to undergo the Growth Review process, and was the first sector to undergo the Red Tape Challenge. These initiatives identified a number of barriers to successful retail performance and growth, which the Government are working to address.

As part of the Retail Growth Review we extended the Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) holiday for one year, to 30 September 2012. Over half a million businesses are expected to benefit, with approximately 330,000 paying no rates. It is expected that enhanced SBRR will improve cash-flow for recipient businesses against the backdrop of challenging economic conditions.

The Government have helped all employers by increasing the employer national insurance contributions (NICs) threshold by £21 a week above indexation from April 2011. This reverses the previous Government's planned £3 billion tax on jobs and will increase the number of employees for whom employers pay no NICs by 650,000.

Through the Merlin agreement, the five major UK banks committed to make available £190 billion of new credit in 2011. £76 billion of this new lending capacity will be to SMEs, which represents a 15% increase on the £66 billion they lent in 2010. This has helped ensure that businesses in the West Midlands and across the economy are able to access the credit they need.

For businesses lacking track-record or collateral, the Government have committed to continuing the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme until 2014-15, providing up to £600 million of additional lending to around 6,000 viable SMEs in 2011 and, subject to demand, over £2 billion in total over the next four years.

This Department and Department for Communities and Local Government are jointly responsible for the £20 million High Street Support Fund which was made available to support businesses affected by the public disturbances in August. Under this scheme SME businesses affected in the West Midlands have received grants and benefited from business rate relief and continue to benefit from wider business support activities to promote a return to normal trading activity. Final figures on spend under the scheme will not be available until after it closes in the new year.

Earlier this year my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister commissioned an Independent Review of the High Street. The review is being carried out by Mary Portas and will report back to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister later this year. The purpose of the review is to identify what Government, local authorities and businesses can do to promote the development of more prosperous and diverse high streets.

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