Businesses take stock at Tonbridge campaign’s first hustings

    Dylan Jones, April Clark and Colin Bullen

    PARLIAMENTARY candidates attempted to win over Tonbridge’s business community on Thursday (May 25) as they tried to sell their party’s economic plans.

    Gathered at a breakfast event organised by the Federation of Small Businesses at the Old Fire Station, the audience of local firms heard how Labour, the Green Party and UKIP plan to support them.

    The local Conservative candidate for Tonbridge & Malling, Tom Tugendhat, was absent after the party told candidates not to start campaigning until midday out of respect for the victims of the Manchester bombing. As was Liberal Democrat Keith Miller.

    A minute’s silence was held before the candidates spoke to commemorate the 22 lives lost after the attack on Monday May 22.

    During the hustings, Labour’s Dylan Jones reassured those present that the party’s plan to raise corporation tax to 26 per cent to fund public services would not apply to small businesses, and that the current 19 per cent rate would be maintained for firms with annual profits below £300,000.
    “We need to level the playing field. It is not fair for the small businesses to be paying the same as the big,” he stressed.

    “I would dispute the idea that the Conservatives are on the side of small businesses.
    “They pay great attention to them paying their taxes, but there is no scrutiny of the large ones,” he said, citing the coalition government’s decision in 2014 to scrap a lower ‘small profits rate’ of corporation tax.

    Green Party candidate April Clark echoed the sentiment, arguing that currently smaller companies were ‘picking up the tab’, and called for a progressive system of tax on businesses, with larger firms paying a higher rate.

    She was also keen to promote a business-friendly image for the party. One policy likely to be popular amongst Tonbridge residents is reducing VAT on the hospitality and catering industry.

    Such measures were not deemed necessary by Colin Bullen of UKIP, who focused on Brexit.

    “There is too much red tape for businesses, and most of this comes from the EU,” he said.

    “So let’s make a clean break. Let’s give power back to the people,” he told the audience, adding that he want to see more young people taking up apprenticeships rather to ‘going to university to study social anthropology’.