Small businesses urge Labour not to freeze them out of Covid-19 talks

Small businesses – led by SME4Labour – are urging the new Labour leadership not to freeze them out of discussions being held to develop the party’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Labour leader Keir Starmer, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds and Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband have been asked to involve small business leaders in forming Labour’s response.

SME4Labour has welcomed the call, made by Miliband over the weekend, for the government to underwrite 100% of the loans available to small businesses rather than only 80%.

But the organisation wants to ensure that the experiences of its members are taken into account – though LabourList understands that Miliband’s office has been in touch with them.

SME4Labour is hoping that a virtual meeting between the group and the leadership team can be held by the end of the week to facilitate input from Labour-backing business leaders.

Commenting on the concerns, SME4Labour co-chair Ibrahim Dogus warned that the “voices of small business must not be drowned out”.

“Otherwise, we risk being in a situation where large corporations, many of whom have paid out millions in dividends and bonuses, are receiving support before small family run businesses that provide a modest income to their owners and employees,” Dogus said.

“The Labour Party has a huge role to play in ensuring this is not the case. We welcome their commitment to work with the government, highlight gaps in the current schemes and propose alternatives.

“But this must be done in partnership with the hundreds of small businesses who support the party’s mission.”

Co-chair Sonny Leong added: “For too long, the views of small businesses have been absent from the policy-making process within the Labour Party. Under new leadership, and at a time of national crisis, it is time for this to change.

“Small businesses are a central plank of Britain’s economy and are responsible for over 16 million jobs. Unless our concerns are put front-and-centre of the economic response to Covid-19 outbreak, we will not come out of this as strongly as we know we can as a country.

“Our members could be a huge asset for the Labour Party. There can be no further delay in ensuring the leadership hears from them directly.”

Miliband has said today that the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme is “simply not working well enough” and ministers must “do more to simplify the application process”.

New figures show that 6,020 UK businesses received £1.1bn worth of loans in the first three weeks. This compares poorly with the take-up in Switzerland, which has seen 70,000 businesses receiving £12bn in loans in one week.

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