Businesses built on technical innovation make up the highest growth sectors of the UK economy and are key to Labour’s economic objectives.
SME4Labour promoted a round table in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 27 March at which businesses in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medical) sector discussed their priorities with Newcastle Centra MP and member of Labour’s front bench business team, Chi Onwurah.
Speaking about Labour’s plans, Chi Onwurah told the meeting:
“The North East’s 40,000 fantastic SMEs contribute to half of the region’s total turnover and 47% of private sector employment. However, these SMEs across sectors from science to services have been failed by the Tories’ 13 years of low growth, low productivity, and a lack of industrial strategy.
“One of Labour’s five core missions in government will be securing the highest sustained growth in the G7, and supporting the North East’s SMEs to thrive and prosper will be absolutely critical to achieving this goal. Labour is backing SMEs with our commitments to transforming Business Rates, ending the late payment culture, and giving businesses more flexibility in their use of apprenticeship levy to help recruit and train workers.”
As well as taking up local concerns such as the need for more operational spaces for laboratory-based activity, Business leaders set out their concerns about the UK Economy, government policy and the measures they would like to see a Labour Government put in place should the party win the next general election.
There was broad agreement around the need to back strongly current proposals for the broadening of devolution in the North East and a stronger voice for region, with broad support for a Labour approach toward genuinely devolved decision making backed by the funds to make it meaningful. This, along with more proactive promotion of the region’s successes, are an essential part of a more entrepreneurial mindset in the region’s corridors of power.
The chronic shortage of skills and the constraints on the Labour market are seen in the region as major barriers to growth and expansion, with new thinking required beyond existing academic and apprenticeship models for delivering a properly equipped workforce. Alongside a feeling that the now conventional ‘spin out’ business model offers limited opportunities, there was a broadly expressed view that if investment funding is to deliver success there needs to be an awareness of the element of risk but also the reward that initial regional investment attracts wider investment from outside the region.
Chairing the meeting for SME4Labour former Labour MEP, John Howarth, said:
“Stability and certainty are priorities for all businesses but more than ever after the chaotic years of Conservative rule. The climate of stability Labour wants to deliver must also offer certainty in the regulatory frameworks. This is essential to attract investment into the high growth sectors essential to Labour’s economic ambition”.