SMALL businesses will play a vital role in building up the UK economy, according to a senior politician.

Welsh Conservative Assembly leader Nick Bourne said more needs to be done to help struggling small business owners, many of whom have been crippled by spiralling business rates.

He made the call on a visit to Northop yesterday, where he met Nic Eastwood, who owns an antiques shop on the village high street.

Mr Eastwood said he was concerned about the decline in shops in villages and town centres.

He added: “When you walk through Mold these days, it just seems to be made up of charity shops.

“Many of the other shops have closed because of business rates and I suppose the charity shops are there because they do no have to pay as much.”

Mr Bourne said: “Some of the hikes in business rates that I have heard about are absolutely outrageous. Supporting small businesses is a very important aspect of our campaign. If we are not supporting them then how do we expect to get the economy running again?”

Mr Bourne was joined on his visit by Delyn parliamentary candidate Antoinette Sandbach. He began his tour of the village at the Red Lion pub, which has struggled to stay open in the past.

He added: “Pubs have a great deal to contend with, including rising business rates and extra costs.

“They have to pay extra to have their recycling taken away on top of their business rates, which just adds to the increasing pressure on them.

“I believe very strongly in supporting pubs, as they play a very important part in their communities and also help with charity events.”