I HAVE recently visited several businesses in Central Devon as part of Family Business Week 2022.

The initiative, led by the Institute for Family Businesses and supported by NatWest, highlights their importance to our economy and to local communities.

The businesses included Partridge Cycles in Kennford (Devon’s largest bike shop), BG Pearce in Cheriton Bishop (which sells machinery and provides services to the agriculture sector) and R and C Crispin in Bradninch (a private hire taxi company).

With nearly 200 years of history between them, the businesses have been pillars of their communities for decades. For more please visit: www.melstridemp.com/familybizweek22 .

It was also useful getting first-hand feedback about some of the challenges businesses are facing as this helps me pursue issues in Westminster more effectively.

I have visited around 800 local businesses as an MP and whether they are a major employer with 200 staff or a one-person operation, each is important and plays a key role in our local economy.

I have supported local businesses in a variety of ways. Sometimes it has been looking into a specific issue affecting just one business and sometimes it has involved working on some industry-wide issue.

For example, I led legislation that introduced fines of up to £100 million for supermarkets that deal unfairly with our farmers.

In other instances it has been providing much wider support – as a treasury minister I reduced business rates for the majority of small high street traders by a third, and as Chair of the Treasury Select Committee I pressed successfully for greater support for the self-employed early in the pandemic.

My mission to support local businesses comes very much from my background – I launched my own business from scratch and grew it both here in the UK and abroad before stepping back to seek election to Parliament in 2010.

I know how much effort goes into making a business successful and the many sacrifices that are made along the way. I also know the frustrations, such as battling with red tape.

To help with rising costs, stemming primarily from Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Government is providing help with energy bills, similar to the schemes announced for domestic households.

The support will mean many businesses pay around 40 per cent less than they otherwise would have over the winter.

A local pub for example, may save around £3,000 a month.

Crucially, the support will be deducted automatically from bills so businesses don’t need to jump through hoops to get it.

The Government has also frozen the Business Rates Multiplier for 2022/23 – a tax cut worth £4.6 billion to businesses over the next five years.

To help with finance, Small Business Start Up loans of between £500 and £25,000 are available, and come with free support and guidance to help write a business plan.

Successful applicants will get up to 12 months of free mentoring.  For more information visit: www.gov.uk/apply-start-up-loan .