Past Conservative party chairman, Caroline Spelman, has just launched a policy to help our small shops and businesses survive the recession by cutting their taxes and paperwork.

She also promised a David Cameron Government would automatically apply business rates relief to small enterprises instead of making them have to claim it themselves.

How appropriate, then, that her successor as party chairman, Eric Pickles, should visit Taunton Deane to take part in a business forum only the previous day.

Eric joined myself and about 40 local business people for the forum in Wellington in order to take back local opinions to people such as Caroline, who will be helping to build the Conservative manifesto for the next General Election.

The difficulties which local firms have in staying afloat during a recession brought about by Gordon Brown's mismanagement of the UK economy are already pretty well known to both myself and Nick James, who is the Conservative candidate for the Taunton West division of Somerset County Council in the June elections.

Nick James, who runs a small business himself, has often joined me in visiting local business people or in knocking on people's doors.

In this way, we get a first-hand account of what is going on out there in the 'real world', rather than the bubblewrapped environment which the Prime Minister and his advisers seem to inhabit.

We know just how tough it is for everybody, which is why we support Conservative plans to stop firms having to fill out time-consuming paperwork to claim rate relief despite the fact that Whitehall tax inspectors already know who is eligible and who is not.

Gordon Brown is just trying to make it difficult for small firms to claim the tax relief so he can drive up business rates by stealth.

Only Conservatives can get Britain out of the mess into which a decade of Labour Government has plunged us.

We will do things such as reform the South West Regional Development Agency and instead create a vibrant, business-focused force for good.

We want our economy to be powered by savings and real returns on effort rather than built on Gordon Brown's debt.

If you want to know more about how Conservatives will help small businesses please email myself or Nick James at or visiting: