Although Labour are out of office nationally, there is still much we can do to support the small businesses who are the lifeblood of our economy.
Across the country Labour Councils and Councillors are often the first point of access for small businesses seeking support. There are nearly 650,000 businesses active in areas covered by Labour authorities and this figure is set to grow as we seek to win control of more councils.
In his first conference speech as leader, Ed Miliband expressed his determination to make Labour the party of small business, and I have seen firsthand the brilliant work done by the Small Business Taskforce he set up. It’s looking closely at every aspect of small business policy and will be making its recommendations to the Party in the new year.
Labour wants to see more people setting up and working in business. We recognise that small businesses are the engines of social mobility, and also the challengers to the status quo by creating new products and services. In this way they share our values, and our Councils across the country are playing a huge role in demonstrating how the next One Nation Labour government will champion and support small businesses and encourage growth in every area.
This is why we have launched the Labour Councillors Business Network (LCBN).
At a time when central government is making unprecedented cuts to local government it has never been more important for our Councils to work together to support their local businesses and economies.
The network will allow Labour Councillors to share ideas, resources, best practice and develop new thinking. It will also help Labour Groups seeking to win office to develop a strong offer with sound business policies and ways to secure jobs.
Our launch meeting was held at Camden Town Hall last Thursday and was attended by nearly fifty Labour Councillors from every region of England. Chuka Umunna the Shadow Business Secretary, Hilary Benn the Shadow Communities Secretary and David Offenbach the Chair of the Labour Finance and Industry Group also participate in discussions. We hope this will be the first of many meetings as we take the network all around the country.
However, the thing that stood out most to me, was the great work that Labour Councils are doing.
Stephen Alambritis, Leader of Merton Council (who were recently praised for having the best high streets in London), Mehboob Khan, Leader of Kirklees Council (who have the highest rate of private sector job creation in West Yorkshire) and Jacqui Williams, an Executive Member on Wakefield Council (who have been named the best small city in which to do business) all gave presentations on their innovative small business policies and led group discussions on these ideas.
All the Councillors spoke about the importance of supporting start ups, attracting businesses to their areas and using all of the tools a local authority had to support, engage and work closely with businesses.
It was inspirational to hear how passionate Labour Councillors from right around the country are about supporting their local businesses. I’m sure the LCBN will be able to build on this passion and become a great success.
Toby Perkins MP is Shadow Minister for Small Businesses