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Boris: Use banks cash to give traders a break

PUBLISHED: 18:24 26 May 2010 | UPDATED: 10:27 12 August 2010

TRADERS anxious about the government s emergency budget had the chance to grill the London Mayor in a Question Time-style discussion.

TRADERS anxious about the government's emergency budget had the chance to grill the London Mayor in a Question Time-style discussion.

Boris Johnson fielded questions from more than 300 concerned audience members from all corners of the capital at the Small Business is Big Business event at The Mermaid Centre, Blackfriars, on Monday.

Panelists included Sue Terpilowksi, chair of the London Policy Unit at the Federation of Small Business, Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Anthony Browne, the mayor's policy director for economic development.

The event was held the day before the mayor launched the findings of the Outer London Commission, which has produced a report detailing the economic prosperity of Bromley, Bexley, Greenwich and other outlying boroughs.

At the conference, one of the key pledges outlined by Mr Johnson was to push for revenues from banks propped up by taxpayers to fund business rate relief for London business owners in a bid to kick-start the economy.

Asked by an audience member what should be done with cash from banks that were bailed out now that they are back in profit, the Mayor said: "The best thing the Treasury can do with the cash, what we need to do with it, is see support for the capital's firms by offering business rate relief.

"If you look at some of the rates, they have gone through the roof and are among the highest in the country."

Conference members were anxious about the impact of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat emergency budget launched the same day. Ms Terpilowski said: "We hear a lot about small businesses being the backbone of Britain but then legislation comes out that damages those same businesses."

The plans call for cuts to higher education, forcing colleges to axe programmes such as English and numeracy for adults.

Audience member Judy Loren, director of English UK and principal at Excel English, in north London, said 45 per cent of all international university students have attended an English as a foreign language (EFL) course. Revenue from course fees alone is put at £500million every year across the capital's 135 English UK centres.

The Outer London Commission report addresses the disparity of job growth, with outer boroughs' figures at half the central London rate. The commission identifies factors limiting prosperity in certain areas, and recommends proposals for future development.

Mr Johnson said: "During these challenging economic times, it is vitally important to do everything we possibly can to ensure everyone gets a chance to contribute to and benefit from the economic strength and diversity of the capital.

"Tapping into and investing in the economy of Outer London boroughs is absolutely key to achieving this.

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