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Rural Areas and Market Towns: Support for Businesses

Volume 677: debated on Tuesday 16 June 2020

What steps he is taking to support the recovery of businesses in (a) rural areas and (b) market towns during the covid-19 outbreak. (903259)

Our thoughts are indeed with our colleague who was murdered, Jo Cox, and also with the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Amy Callaghan); we wish her a safe return to this House.

We have introduced an unprecedented package of support for businesses across the country to get through this incredibly challenging period. More than £10 billion in grants—grants—has been paid to over 830,000 businesses of all sizes, including £100 million to over 8,000 businesses in Dorset. I want to thank the local leadership there for delivering that. This has explicitly been targeted at those in receipt of rural rate relief, as well as small business rate relief.

Market towns in West Dorset such as Lyme Regis, Sherborne and Dorchester are thinking ahead, and I am supporting them to look at innovations to boost the local economy following coronavirus. These include virtual high streets and collaborating to improve accessibility of local brands to those who may not be able to get to the town. Will the Minister meet me to look at these concepts and determine how we can support these initiatives going forward?

I know better than most, with Shipston-on-Stour, Alcester and Bidford—very important market towns—in my constituency, that it is more important than ever at this time to support businesses to adopt innovative business models. I would of course be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss those approaches to reopening our economy in West Dorset and the lessons that this may hold for the rest of the country as well.