The Liberal Democrats have accused the Conservatives of failing to protect local small businesses, after figures revealed that 6,945 businesses in the area have closed over the last three years.
It comes as Boris Johnson announces a new clause the Withdrawal Bill which would rule out extension at the end of 2020, further increasing the chances of Britain falling off a no-deal Brexit cliff-edge.
Recent figures show that 6,945 businesses have closed in Bristol between 2016 and 2018, a 29.1% change increase compared to the three years.
Across the UK one million businesses have closed their doors between 2016 and 2018, an increase of almost a third compared to 2013- 2015.
The Federation of Small Businesses has warned that a no deal Brexit, which Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out, would mean more damage to firms. Firms are also being held back by the Conservative government's failure to reform business rates, and by new taxes on the self-employed that business groups have described as "disastrous".
The Liberal Democrats have proposed a package of measures to support small businesses and boost high streets in Bristol, including:
- Creating a new ‘start-up allowance’ to support those starting new businesses with their living costs in the crucial first weeks of the business.
- Increasing mentoring support to small business owners
- Requiring Government agencies and larger firms to sign up to a new, enforceable, prompt payment code to ensure that small businesses never again suffer because of large businesses failing to pay on time.
- Expanding the Future High Streets Fund to support the redevelopment of more town centres and high streets.
- Supporting the development of the skills small businesses need by reforming the apprenticeship levy to become a skills and training levy where 25% of being targeted at areas with the greatest skills needs.
Commenting on the figures, James Cox, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Bristol West, said:
“Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party have failed small businesses in Bristol, saddling them with years of Brexit uncertainty and ignoring urgent calls to reform business rates.
“Almost 7,000 local businesses have closed their doors under the Conservative government’s watch. Each business closing represents jobs, investment and opportunities lost to our area.
“Now Boris Johnson wants to plunge small businesses into even more uncertainty and worry with yesterday's announcement, pursuing a Brexit plan that risks yet another No Deal cliff edge in December 2020. They have lost any right to call themselves the party of business.
“Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for Remainers up and down the country and oppose Brexit. People deserve better than a future where a Prime Minister willingly threatens jobs, the environment and the NHS."