Ever since I was a little girl growing up in Carlisle I remember the magic of Christmas emerging from its annual hibernation. Always starting in the town centre, shop windows came alive like West End theatre proscenia, and grey wintry walkways were suddenly festooned with lights and bunting.
And so it comes around again, here in Maidstone & The Weald, where a wealth of modern and historic local retail centres vie for our Christmas coins.
High street businesses are crucial to our nation's economy; the retail sector is worth an estimated £92.8 billion and employs nearly 10% of the entire UK workforce. High Streets also play a vital part in society too, as the epicentre of local economies and providing a comfortingly familiar place where communities come together.
In short, our High Streets matter, but the businesses that give them life are under pressure and need support whilst the traditional retail models adapt to the immense challenges of online commerce.
I am therefore very pleased that the Government will be cutting business rates by a third for our smaller retailers, and that £675 million will be invested to regenerate High Streets across the country, making them fit for the 21st century. Needless to say I stand ready to support retailers in my constituency in accessing any opportunities that become available here in Kent.
And we can all support them in a direct way too, by shopping more locally. Out of town destinations have their attractions, but so do pretty and more personable high streets, where you might see a friend or two, and have a chat in passing.
So why not consider giving your local retailers a present this year, and help them keep the Amazons at bay, by giving them some of your business. I know they will hugely value your support and by helping them prosper, hopefully, they will remain at your service, for your local convenience.
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