I was successful earlier today in the ballot for a Business Question. Given the challenges faced by high streets at present, I asked the Minister what support the Government was providing for small and medium-sized local business to help them prosper. In her response, I was encouraged to hear references to the suitable funding within the Ayrshire Growth Deal, which will be an enormous benefit locally, as well as the £1.6 billion Stronger Towns Fund which will help local councils support high streets. I will continue to do whatever I can as your local MP to support the Growth Deal and will maintain pressure on the Government to expedite the Stronger Towns Fund. I believe these are fundamental to the success of our community.
As the House is aware, high streets are under pressure as a result of the changing retail landscape. Sadly, in Ayr, we lost our independent department store, Hourstons, earlier this year. It had been trading for 123 years. Will my hon. Friend outline what support is available to local businesses to ensure that they can remain at the heart of their communities?
I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the loss of a department store in his constituency. Let me assure him that the Minister with responsibility for high streets—the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry)—and I are committed to working together to support the businesses at the heart of our communities across the country and to deliver the £1.6 billion plan for our high streets, including via the Retail Sector Council. The Ayrshire growth deal, with £103 million of UK Government funding, in my hon. Friend’s constituency—of which he has been a keen supporter—will also help the wider business community.