One of the real joys of living in our area is the fantastic local businesses which bring life to our town centres and village high streets.

Take the Brewery Tap in Shefford, an excellent pub and my local! Aside from being one of few pubs to serve Shefford Bitter on tap, its offer goes beyond pints and food.

The owners, Lou and Shaun, have put huge effort into making the pub a beloved pillar of our community, running charity breakfasts and organising armed services days.

It’s a brilliant example of how our local businesses form the fabric of our towns.

However, businesses and high streets have been hit hard these last few years. The pandemic pushed thousands to the brink.

Fledgling start-ups struggled to take off and even some of the most established businesses closed their doors.

Those that managed to weather the storm to stay afloat have been hit by a tsunami of spiralling inflation, rocketing rent prices and energy bills.

Facing such tough conditions, it's been fantastic to see our community rally around our high streets and support some of our fantastic local businesses to survive and thrive.

But all too often local goodwill isn’t enough, and if we want to protect and support our fantastic high streets and small businesses, we need a government that will finally be on their side.

At the general election, I’m proud Labour will be standing on a platform to finally back our town centres and village high streets, and support the businesses who make them so special.

For far too long, we’ve allowed sky high business rates to be an unfair burden on brick-and-mortar business, especially compared to online retailers.

Labour will scrap business rates and replace them with a fairer taxation which removes the unfair burden faced by the high street businesses which provide such local value.

For too long we’ve seen banks pulling back from rural communities, leaving many without access to banking facilities.

Labour will bring forward more Banking hubs, delivering an extra 350 for towns across the country.

For too long we’ve seen people feel less safe in our local town centres, especially in the evening. Labour will deliver an extra 13,000 neighbourhood police officers to bring a reassuring presence back to our high streets.

And we won’t stop at that. Labour will ensure we hardwire small businesses into everything we do.

From introducing legislation to tackle late payments, to providing extra financial support to help businesses improve energy efficiency in the face of high bills.

We’ll take action on the issues local businesses are telling me are holding them back.

We are so lucky to have such fantastic shops and businesses across our towns and villages, it's time we finally have a government who stands up for them.