THE Government is backing the high street – that was the message MP Stephen Metcalfe gave to shopkeepers when he visited a number of retailers on Small Business Saturday.

Mr Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, praised new plans, which include capping business rates at two per cent, a £1,000 discount to business rates less than £50,000 and halved rates for 18 months for businesses taking on shops which have stood empty for a long period of time.

The Government has also vowed to stop over-zealous parking enforcement and unreasonable parking to encourage more local shopping.

Mr Metcalfe said: “I am acutely aware of the challenges facing the high street at the moment. I am delighted the Government is taking assertive action and know these measures will make a huge difference to many of the invaluable small shops and local traders we find in our town centres.”

Emma Keast, who owns Cranberries in Grover Walk, Corringham, said: “It’s good the Government is focusing on small businesses. Parking is an important way to keep small towns thriving.

“Any help to stop business rates going up is good. It’s a constant struggle for any business to pay rent and rates.”