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Traders send Boris a High Street SOS

PUBLISHED: 15:21 15 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:50 25 August 2010

CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Mayor Boris with Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate David Gold.

CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Mayor Boris with Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate David Gold.

TRADERS clinging on for survival demanded action when London Mayor Boris Johnson came to town with their message: Sort it out, Boris . The emphatic statement came from the owner of Eltham Digital Printers, Terry Glascock, but summed up the feelings of i

TRADERS clinging on for survival demanded action when London Mayor Boris Johnson came to town with their message: 'Sort it out, Boris'.

The emphatic statement came from the owner of Eltham Digital Printers, Terry Glascock, but summed up the feelings of independent traders in Eltham High Street fighting the economic downturn.

Mr Johnson was lending his support to Eltham Conservative candidate David Gold as the activist train moved through the High Street yesterday, meeting and greeting to secure precious votes in the marginal seat.

One Tory pledge is to give employers of new businesses a tax holiday on its first 10 workers.

Eltham Digital Printers has had to let go of two workers and sell machinery. Mr Glascock, said: "If they are going to cut National Insurance contributions for new traders, which I think is a great idea, they should do it for existing businesses to help the recovery. What are we supposed to do, shut down then start up again?

"The High Street is in a terrible state and I don't think the Tories will make any difference. Cars used to be bumper to bumper outside.

"I want to see business rates kept at the current rate but it should be spent more wisely, like on construction."

Employee Dave Ashworth ran a print firm in Fulham that went bust after 30 years.

He said: "I have two children to support, I had to sell my car, virtually everything I owned, it made me feel sick."

Manager of Shoecare Peter Webster said that trade is at its worst in three-and-a-half years and added: "This used to be a two-man shop but we had to let one worker go. I phoned my area manager recently and told him I'm very worried about the economic situation.

"The High Street needs something at the top end of the street to attract people like a Primark. Pound shops don't do anything for our trade.

"When Holland and Barrett moved further down it took a lot of elderly customers with it."

He said rents are nearly double at the busier end of the High Street, just 150 yards away.

Mr Johnson and Mr Gold met customers tucking into lunch at the busy Eltham Bar and Grill that has been running for 40 years.

Manager Vedat Narin, said: "Trade is not too bad but if we want to be here for another 40 years, they could help by reducing business rates."

Mr Gold, whose main rival is Labour's Clive Efford, said: "Labour's tax on jobs by raising NI one percent is crazy when we're trying to boost the economy. A tax break on new businesses for ten employees will help town centres like Eltham.

"Traders are crying out for loans from banks and we will make it easier for them to get the loans they need."

When asked about the economy, Mr Johnson, spoke only about the decision to keep the 24-hour Freedom Pass, which allows free travel for older and disabled Londoners.

He said: "The Freedom Pass is something that is vital to keep for Londoners, pensioners can benefit hugely from it.

"Not only does it help them enjoy a fuller, more active life, but as we have seen in Eltham it enables people to access town centres, do their shopping and put money into the economy.

"David Gold is the man to deliver real benefit to residents and I'm pleased with the public support he had on my visit.

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