The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers praised Twickenham’s independent traders during a tour of the town ahead of the local council elections in May.

The MP for Chipping Barnet met the owners of Sandys fishmongers and Cousins of Twickenham greengrocers on Monday, March 24, with Conservative parliamentary candidate Dr Tania Mathias as well as visiting Jubilee Gardens and the Fox pub.

She said: “Local shops are such a big part of the local community. High streets are finding it really difficult in suburban areas so free parking where it’s possible and affordable is great and I think it’s a real achievement that Richmond’s been able to do that.

“We’re introducing reductions in employer national insurance, jobs taxes are going down for local businesses because they’re all getting a new £2,000 allowance and businesses employing people under-21 won’t have to pay job taxes on those staff.

“Look at what we’ve done to crack down on abusive tax practices by big businesses and that’s about giving a good deal to shops along high streets because how can they compete with these big corporations who are not paying any tax at all?”

Coun Mathias, who represents Hampton Wick and hopes to defeat long-standing Twickenham MP Vince Cable in next year’s general election, believes the party has momentum and there is a positive buzz among residents.

She said: “The top issue for Twickenham residents is finances because the council tax is a big part of your budget.

“We are still under a recession and I still say that is because of Gordon Brown and if we can keep it as low as possible then that is one less stress for them.

“We are campaigning on what we’ve already done so our pledge is more of the same. We have frozen the council tax for four years which is remarkable for this borough but I think a lot of people aren’t aware of it because they aren’t complaining about local services.”