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Small businesses call on Labour not to freeze them out of discussions on COVID-19

Small business leaders urge Labour to involve them in developing their response to the economic crisis created by COVID-19


Leaders of hundreds of small businesses are today urging Keir Starmer, the new Labour leader, Anneliese Dodds, the new Shadow Chancellor, and Ed Miliband, the new Shadow Business Secretary, not to freeze them out of discussions on how to best support the Government – and provide effective opposition – as the country continues to wrestle with the outbreak of COVID-19.

The call, led by SME4Labour, urges the Party’s leadership to listen to the experiences of SMEs right across the country, hear the challenges they are currently facing and their ideas for how the Government can best respond — both in the immediate term to stop businesses going to the wall during the lockdown, and in the future as the economy is helped to get back on its feet.

Last week, Miliband wrote to the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, calling for the government to underwrite 100% of the loans available to small businesses. This move was welcomed by business leaders as an important first step. However, they expressed some concern that they had yet to hear from Starmer, Dodds or Miliband to ensure their direct experiences were being used to formulate policy and hold the Chancellor and Business Secretary to account. They have urged for this to be rectified as soon as possible, with the hope of holding a virtual meeting by the end of the week.

Co-Chair of SME4Labour, Ibrahim Dogus, said:

“Across every region and every sector of our economy, small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges. We’re reaching the end of the month and many of those running these organisations are wondering how they are going to pay wages, rents and suppliers. Thousands of businesses are closed altogether and others have seen their income plummet as they adapt to the current measures in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The health of the nation is clearly the priority, but once we are through this terrible crisis, we will need those businesses in construction, retail, hospitality and the many other sectors dominated by SMEs to get the economy back off its knees.

“The government has, of course, put in place measures to offer support to the business community, but conversations with our members suggests it is simply not getting to small businesses fast enough or at the level necessary to stop them going to the wall. Whilst a restaurant owner may be counting the days before their money runs out, we hear news reports of huge companies like Easyjet and Premier League football clubs urging the government to step in and help them out.

“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.

“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.”

Sonny Leong, Co-Chair is SME4Labour, said:

“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.”