Gloria De Piero column: Small businesses are vital to Ashfield

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I was left flabbergasted by the behaviour of one ‘dad’, and I apply that term very loosely. His ex-partner has been completely worn down by his antics to avoid paying child maintenance.

This absent father had just given his 26th ‘change of circumstances’, which is utterly ridiculous and means that the Child Support Agency (CSA) have to reassess him which can take anything up to three months to agree a new figure.

He’ll then pay once or twice if his kids are lucky before doing the same thing over again. The mum reckons she’s spent more on phone calls to the CSA in the last six months than she has had from him in maintenance payments. He needs to take a long hard look at himself and pull his finger out and the CSA must clamp down on this sort of behaviour. It’s scandalous.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our community, most of us work for small businesses and I think they should be supported to grow and prosper so they can survive, expand and create more jobs. Last week I officially opened the new headquarters of Van Elle in Kirkby. Who’d have known that we’d be home to the largest independent piling contractors in the UK - impressive isn’t it? We need more people setting up on their own - people like Sophie Aspinall and Luke Davies who have set up the Ashfield Technology shop in Kirkby and Vicky Mercer who runs Upper Cut Hair & Beauty Salon in Stanton Hill where I had my nails done last week and Andrea did a great job of them – I can’t stop looking at them!

They are all great local businesses but business rates have gone up by an average of £1,500 since 2010. I’m campaigning to cut small business rates next year and for a freeze in 2016.

This could be paid for by cancelling the Government’s corporation tax cut for the largest firms in the country.

Message for local schools – Parliament is an amazing building and I’m lucky enough to be able to work there and represent the people of Ashfield. It’s well worth a visit to take in the history, the architecture and learn more about the day to day workings of Parliament.

The Parliamentary Education Service puts on brilliant tours for local schools so I’d urge all schools in our area to take full advantage. Students from Quarrydale did just that the other week and they couldn’t speak highly enough of the trip.

Chloe Oldfield, their teacher told me the students were blown away by the experience and didn’t stop talking about it all of the way home. They are already looking at running the trip next year so why doesn’t your school join them? If you want to find out more contact my office or the Parliamentary Education Service directly.