None of the parties have a great track record in supporting small businesses. Conservatives put their energy into large, even international companies; Lib Dems have focused more on community projects; and Labour has historically positioned itself with hired workers and their interests – but all that is changing.
The big manufacturing industries of the past have largely closed and the workforce has dispersed into smaller industries, with many transforming into self-employed workers, small businesses and contract workers. Whilst many enjoy the freedoms this brings to work independently and to flex work to suit the family, few small businesses enjoy the uncertainty of it. Holidays, illnesses and accidents mean no income. Insurance becomes expensive. Tools, vans, office small, shop front cost a fortune. And then there’s the paperwork…..
Small businesses are challenged by many of the same requirements that apply to large companies, but without the administrative staff to cope with it. The small business person is their own admin department, HR department, finance section and PA.
Labour is starting to pay attention. It does not, as many expect, see them as mini-capitalists, but as workers striving to use their skills in a new economic environment. They also see the self-employed as a responsive, local service to residents.
Labour’s 2019 manifesto begins to tackle the challenges facing the self-employed, promising to:
- Ban late payers from public contracts
- Scrap quarterly reports
- Introduce insurance to protect your income when you can’t work
- Apply the apprentice scheme to existing employees as well as new staff
- Reform business rates to benefit small businesses
- Introduce one-stop-shops for financial advice, help with tax, lending and business services to small businesses.
- Establish full-fibre broadband everywhere
Anne Rouse, our candidate in the general election, introduced the first motion to address the self-employed at a Labour Conference. It narrowly missed being selected because the national agenda was dominated by Brexit and the crisis in public services.
Anne, an accountant to small businesses, is all too aware of the challenges facing them. She would like to see the harsh pre-payment of tax removed or reduced to help keep businesses solvent, and also a simplification of the paperwork.
It’s a start. Please think about voting Labour or joining us to put proposals to the national party about the government’s relationship with small businesses and the self-employed.