Labour unveils 20 pledges to support small businesses

Elliot Chappell

Labour is set to unveil plans to establish a business development agency, in the style of a ‘one-stop-shop’ providing support and advice, as part of a 20-point plan to support small business.

Business spokesperson Rebecca Long-Bailey will launch the 20 new pledges and lay out the details of the proposal to establish the agency on Friday.

Labour says the new body would act as a “one-stop-shop” for entrepreneurs, and help to champion small business across government departments.

The agency would assist businesses in getting access to finance and large scale government contracts through a network of advisors operating out of larger Post Bank branches.

Commenting on the launch, Long-Bailey said: “Small businesses, the lifeblood of our economy and our communities, are being stretched to breaking point by global corporations which evade their taxes and fail to pay their suppliers on time. This inequality scars our country.”

The announced policies include measures to make business fairer for smaller enterprises, such as clamping down on tax avoidance and providing £250bn investment through development banks.

Long-Bailey added: “Small businesses are vital to a thriving economy. Labour wants business support and finance to be available for entrepreneurs from the moment the seed of an idea is planted.

“Labour’s business development agency will create thriving businesses within our communities, bringing life back to local economies. The agency is part of 20 pledges we are making because Labour is on the side of small business. It’s time for real change.”

Labour’s 20-point plan for business:
  1. Negotiating a Brexit deal that protects business;
  2. Undertaking a transformational upgrade of infrastructure;
  3. Establishing a £250bn national investment bank and network of regional development banks;
  4. Setting up a Post Bank to provide relationship banking with SMEs;
  5. Creating a business development agency to act as a one-stop-shop for business support;
  6. Stamping out late payments, which currently cause cash flow problems in 37% of small businesses;
  7. Providing free full-fibre broadband to every business premises;
  8. Giving businesses more flexibility over how they use the apprenticeship levy;
  9. Guaranteeing a skilled workforce through universal lifelong learning;
  10. Stopping bank branch and post office closures;
  11. Investing to meet our target for 3% of GDP spent on research and development by 2030;
  12. Creating a level playing field by clamping down on tax avoidance and implementing a ‘fair tax programme’;
  13. Introducing a price cap for non-energy intensive micro-businesses;
  14. Radically expanding free childcare;
  15. Scrapping quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of under £85,000;
  16. Ensuring businesses are part of the electric car revolution;
  17. Using government procurement to support SMEs and economic growth;
  18. Stopping the offshoring of carbon emissions by switching from measuring the UK’s emissions’ production to consumption;
  19. Reforming the outdated business rates system;
  20. Increasing productivity across manufacturing by supporting the ‘made smarter’ initiative.

Last year, there were 5.7 million private sector businesses in the UK, down by 27,000 compared to 2017. This is the first year-on-year fall in the number of businesses since the data started being collected in 2000.

Micro-businesses are those with between zero and nine employees, and accounted for 96% of all businesses in the UK in 2018 – 99% of businesses had fewer than 250 employees.

The proportion of businesses with any employees at all has fallen since 2000, from around a third to a quarter, due to the growth in self employment.

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