SME4Labour held a public forum on the Local Elections 2018 in Jubilee Room of the Houses of Parliament on Monday, 30th April 2018.
The keynote speakers were Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Business Bill Esterson MP, Thelma Walker MP for Colne Valley and Sonny Leong, Co-Chairman of SME4Labour.
The event was kindly hosted by Thelma Walker MP and chaired by Andrew Dismore, Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden. Attendees included small and medium business owners.
The issues that were discussed included small business rates, lack of investment outside London, skills education, better infrastructure and funding gap for SMEs.
As the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP, Thelma Walker spoke about Labour’s engagement with SMEs not only in London but also in other regions including her constituency. She referred to the meetings held with small and medium businesses in her constituency and said that businesses had a chance to listen to Labour’s policies on business and most of them found that they agreed with these policies which have been the outcome of Labour’s engagement with SMEs. As a member of Education Select Committee, Thelma Walker MP argued that one of the most important issues affecting SMEs is the huge skills gap and that local governments and universities must focus on skills education across the country.
Chi Onwurah MP outlined Labour’s strategies for providing better support for SMEs. She said that the Labour Party will create a national investment bank which will create funding for start-ups and support SMEs in cases of late payments. She said that the Labour Party will introduce harsher penalties for late payments as this is one of the immediate issues affecting small businesses. Chi Onwurah commented that Labour will create a national education service to close the gap of skills. She added that Labour’s business strategy is to create an innovation nation where the government invests in infrastructure, renewable energy and skills, which would provide good production and services for the country.
Bill Esterson MP focused on unfair competition between big and small businesses. Referring to Sainsbury’s and Asda merger and the recent Carillion scandal, he argued that the suppliers are the ones that suffer the most as they lose money and business on unfair terms. He pointed out that the current Tory government is not implementing any measures to protect small businesses. He added that the Labour Party listened to SMEs across the country and produced policies that will provide fair markets, not just free markets.
Businessman Sonny Leong argued that the Labour Party must have a vision for the future of business as 20 million jobs will be lost due to the level of technological change over the next 20 years. He added that the number of freelancers is on the increase and that Labour must support this growing force of work. Mr Leong also urged the Labour Party to welcome more and more business people to the party and encourage them to stand in local elections as, he argued, local governments lack business people and they therefore are weaker in terms of introducing business friendly provisions.
The presentations were followed by further discussion on issues affecting small businesses.