Suffolk business leaders put election hopefuls on the spot

The ISSBA hustings event at Trinity Park, Ipswich.

The ISSBA hustings event at Trinity Park, Ipswich. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Business rates, late payment and transport infrastructure were among the issues raised as business leaders from Suffolk were given the chance to question five of the county’s General Election candidates.

The hustings event was staged at Trinity Park, Ipswich, by the Ipswich & Suffolk Small Business Association (ISSBA) as a curtain-raiser to its annual Anglia Business Exhibition, which takes place at the same venue today.

On the panel were Jane Basham (the Labour candidate in South Suffolk), Rhodri Griffiths (Green Party, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich), Ben Gummer (Conservative, Ipswich), James Sandbach (Liberal Democrat, Suffolk Coastal) and Maria Vigneau (UKIP, Ipswich).

Among the questions were what the parties would do to help small businesses, whether the East of England, as a net contributor to the Treasury, deserved better transport and broadband infrastructure, and what action should be taken to tackle the problem of late payment by larger firms.

On help for small businesses, Rhodri Griffiths called for “root and branch” reform of the business rates system, which he said currently put smaller firms at a disadvantage, while Ben Gummer stressed the need for government to provide the economic environment necessary for businesses to thrive as well as highlighting action by the coalition in areas such as late payment, National Insurance and rates relief for small retailers.

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Maria Vigneau said action was needed in areas including business rates, red tape and late payments, James Sandbach advocated a “one stop shop” for business support and reform of public sector procurement, which he said was still geared too much towards larger firms.

Jane Basham said small and medium-sized firms were “at the heart” of Labour’s policy, with its plans including help on business rates, the creation of a business investment bank and a requirement for large companies to publish their record on paying smaller suppliers.

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The debate was chaired by Terry Hunt, editor of the East Anglian Daily Times, with James Davey, chairman of ISSBA, welcoming guests and delivering a vote of thanks.

The Anglia Business Exhibition takes place at Trinity Park today between 11.30am and 6pm.

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