Saturday the 3rd December marks the tenth anniversary of Small Business Saturday. I am proud to have supported this every year for the last decade. It celebrates the 5.5 million small businesses up and down the country who are the lifeblood of our national and local economy, and encourages the community to shop local.
In my constituency of Feltham and Heston, there are over 5000 small businesses, and 18,000 across Hounslow as a whole, making up over 99% of all firms. I grew up above my parents’ small family shop in Osterley and know first-hand the contribution that small businesses make to our local community.
On Small Business Saturday I’ll be visiting local small businesses in my constituency, alongside local Hounslow councillors and the MP for Brentford and Isleworth and Labour’s Shadow International Trade Minister, Ruth Cadbury, to start my Christmas shopping and to chat with them about their business, and what would make life easier for them.
I know that our local small businesses simply haven’t had the support they need from the government to grow and prosper, and if anything, the government are now holding small businesses back.
They’ve come through the pandemic only to be in the midst of rising costs and an energy crisis, with a low growth and high tax economy thanks to the failed economic approach of the last 12 years of Conservative government. And to top it all off, in October the government scrapped the title of small business minister all together.
This week in Parliament I raised the issues facing small businesses in Hounslow in a question to the business secretary. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t have any answers for the multiple issues keeping business owners up at night, including the prospect of soaring business rates, energy bills and staff shortages.
And you don’t need to take it from me: the Federation of Small Businesses’ judged the government’s recent Autumn Statement as: “low on wealth-creation, piling more pressure on our 5.5 million small businesses.”
If the government is really serious about helping small business grow, it is time they adopted Labour’s plan to reform business rates, back our high streets, make Brexit work and make Britain the best place to start and grow a business.
As Labour’s shadow small business minister, I’m proud that we’ve put forward a costed plan to support small businesses. We have also initiated an entrepreneurship review, launched by our Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, exploring the current barriers to small business growth.
We’ve already have committed to scrapping business rates and replacing it with a fairer system that provides a level playing field between online and offline businesses. Business rates aren’t a fair tax – paid as they are even before you make a penny in profit.
And as our Shadow Business Secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, announced this week, Labour will take action on late payments to small businesses. Currently, 3 in 5 small businesses are waiting on unpaid invoices, costing an estimated £684 million a year. We would introduce legislation to support small businesses to receive the cash they are owed on time.
Ultimately, this Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to celebrate the huge contribution small business make to our local community in Hounslow. It’s also time that the government recognised that contribution and put the needs of small businesses and our local economy at the heart of a national plan for enterprise and growth.