He described how they had been ‘hit very badly’ by the pandemic and thought not enough was being offered by the government to help them survive.
While in Burgess Hill, he heard about the Lib Dem-led town council’s plans for the Beehive arts venue and what they are doing to ‘get some life back into the town centre’.
He met business owners such as Mama Fit, a gym and cafe, Scrapless, a zero waste store, and several others.
He said: “This is a great example of what a proactive local group of Liberal Democrats can do, working with local businesses and trying to rebuild their local area.”
He also spoke to Danny Chadburn, who had set up a co-working space for rural office workers prior to Covid in Hurstpierpoint, and described it as the ‘sort of thing the Lib Dems want to get behind’ to reduce the need for people to commute into London, as well as Jess Adams at Poponin on the High Street.
He also met with Sebastian Candelon, owner of The Fresh Fish Shop in Haywards Heath, to hear about how the business has adapted during the pandemic.
Sir Ed said: “Local businesses have had a really tough time with long closures and my heart goes out to them. We need to give them more support.”
With pubs and hospitality one of the hardest-hit sectors, the Lib Dems want to see a scheme similar to one implemented in Germany where a number of businesses, but particularly pubs, receive support paying their rent.
Mid Sussex along with the rest of the county is gearing up for county council elections at the start of May.
In this part of the country, Sir Ed called it a two-horse race between his party and the Conservatives.
He said: “We really think we can make quite a number of gains from the Conservatives. If people want to vote against the government and local Conservatives they need to back the Liberal Democrats.”
Although he acknowledged cuts from central government was having an impact, he felt everything could not be blamed on this, with decisions being taken locally by West Sussex County Council.
Some of the Mid Sussex issues that had been raised with him included queuing at Burgess Hill’s rubbish tip and the fight to reverse the decision to closure Haywards Heath’s Clair Hall.
He argued these showed Lib Dems being ‘strong community activists’ who are listening and trying to respond to residents’ concerns.
He also mentioned the problem of potholes and condition of West Sussex’s roads had been raised with him.
Sir Ed also mentioned their efforts to support carers, many of whom are unpaid. The Lib Dems want to see extra funding to provide the support services unpaid carers need to take a weekly break.
He finished by saying his party was committed to taking action on climate change and was campaigning for a ‘fairer, greener and more caring country’.
Alison Bennett, Arundel and South Downs Parliamentary spokesperson, said: “Across West Sussex there are many small businesses and start ups run by people with ideas, energy and passion. I was delighted that I was able to introduce Sir Ed Davey to two Hurstpierpoint businesses and so that they could tell him first had what it has been like to be in business in a rural village during the pandemic.
“With the right package of support from the Government we can build a sustainable recovery across our towns and villages.”
Robert Eggleston, Lleader of Burgess Hill Town Council, added: “It was great to show the progress local entrepreneurs have made, supported by Burgess Hill Town Council, bringing life back to Burgess Hill despite all the challenges faced due to the pandemic.
“These businesses are a credit to our town and I’d encourage our residents to shop local as we come out of the pandemic.”