My column in the Morley Observer

Walk through Morley on a sunny Saturday morning when the town is full of shoppers and you might not realise the town had been through a tough few years. But many local retailers tell a different story. With money tight for shoppers, it has been tough and many businesses have struggled with business rates, rent, rising fuel costs and increased VAT to contend with.

I speak to Morley Chamber regularly, the local Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses has the office across from mine, and I visit local firms whenever I can. Some have fared ok through the recession, but almost all have struggled with business rates. Why, one Morley businessman asked me last week, should retailers in town centres be paying higher business rates than big national chains locating out of town?

We need more help for business, especially small ones who want to grow and expand. Nationally I’ve called for business rates to be cut and then frozen which would save the average small business £400. I also want to see energy prices frozen and the market reformed to give business and residential customers a better deal.

But as well as the work I’ve been doing in Westminster to change national policy, I’ve also been working hard locally, with the Chamber, local Councillors, Leeds City Council officers and others to get more for our town.

We have some fantastic national, and international companies on our doorstep but can they do more for us here in Morley? O2 already piloted their ‘priority local’ scheme in Morley town centre and I’ve been asking what else they can do. White Rose regularly offer local businesses advice and access to stalls in the White Rose Centre but is there more we can do? And Morrisons is where very many people begin their shopping trips to Morley. So I’ve been speaking to them about what we can do to ensure Morley Morrisons is truly a gateway to our town centre.

From my meetings with them I know that each of these big companies wants to do what they can to support the town centre too. And I’ll be keeping up the pressure to ensure they do all they can to support our town and really get Morley on the map.

*******

The NHS breast screening unit is back! I called in a couple of weeks back to see the unit back in place and caught up with Asda’s Community Champion, Maxine who was instrumental in getting the unit installed at the store in Morley.

You might remember my campaign, along with Cllr Neil Dawson, a couple of years back to get the unit back to Morley after it was moved to Middleton when the sports centre was re-built. There was real local concern that those without their own transport were having to travel on two buses to access the service, and were at risk of missing their appointments.

Thanks to Asda, and Maxine in particular, the unit was back in a few short weeks. It’s fantastic to see the unit once again in Asda’s car park for another wave of appointments. Women from across the Morley area can continue to access the NHS breast screening service close by in the specialised unit.

Having the unit available locally means more women (and men) will come forward for their screenings and should mean early detection of any problems.  Brilliant news for local healthcare.

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Posted June 4th, 2014 by Ed