Board members of Banbury and District Chamber of Commerce attended a regular check-in with Victoria Prentis MP to put forward questions from local businesses and stakeholders.
Neil Wild chaired proceedings and thanked Victoria for giving us a slice of her valuable time.
Accountant Simon Smith from Weller’s Accountants posed questions around the lack of furlough and financial support arrangements for the self employed and those Company Directors that pay themselves in dividends. Simon also wished to explore the potential for a VAT reduction for other sectors that are suffering acutely such as Retail, hospitality and beauty.
Victoria gave positive assurances to us of her continued support for Banbury’s Horton General Hospital and felt that further degrading of services were unlikely and her ultimate goal to bring back full maternity services to Banbury. In general our NHS are in the thick of the response to the Covid pandemic – with current cases in the Trust being extremely challenging.
HS2 was discussed, Victoria, has in the past publicly vocalised her reservations towards the project, and reemphasized her doubts towards the scheme even further. Our working patterns have changed radically with working-from-home becoming the norm, so the need for this high-speed service will be redundant. Her office is busy with real complaints from land-owners and the families that are adversely effected by the changes happening to their environment as a result of the HS2 build.
Victoria has a key involvement in Brexit strategy and public and is also a junior DEFRA minister. She was able to comment briefly on the impact that Brexit is having on the financial sector. She reflected that we have left WITH a deal, that is albeit still being negotiated, but had we have left with NO deal the impact of leaving would have been far worse. She felt that she had significant links and contact with local farmers and businesses to be able to determine her Brexit strategy.
Board Member Nancy Buckley from Activate Learning could not leave without asking about the recent FE Skills for Jobs Whitepaper and the positive spotlight it brings on the FE sector of education and employers and chambers being heavily emphasized. Victoria predicted that apprenticeships options would become greater and increase, while the university sector may not feel as appealing a prospect for young people post-pandemic.
Without a crystal ball, she could not predict the wholesale return to school on 8th March, although the government are very keen for education to re-open. She warned that the public’s tolerance of restrictions was wearing thin, and whilst we have maintained civil obedience brilliantly over the last year, this may well break down if restrictions cannot start to be lifted.
Neil Wild wrapped up with a discussion around the £1.7M OXLEP funding for High Streets and properties which will create opportunities for our town centres across the county. Neil is one of the delivery Partners for this Project and can feed into the Chamber the news of the progress of this investment.
Victoria will be a panel member at our event, How to Manage your Business After Brexit on 23 March. Do make sure you register for this event.