Business owners share opinions and look to the future after Labour’s win

Business owners share opinions and look to the future after Labour’s win
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More businesses hope for the best whilst moving with the times

As Sir Keir Starmer settles into life at Number 10, the country’s business owners’ wait with bated breath to see if reform will bring positive news to regenerate the economy, the skills and the high street.

I’ve heard from more businesses who are keen to share their views …

Will reform reach the British Business Bank?

Theo Chatha, Chief Financial Officer at Bibby Financial Services shared their opinion on the importance of Labour delivering on their promise of the much needed reform of the British Business Bank and the Bank Referral Scheme:

‘The Labour party now has an opportunity to drive economic growth through the UK’s resilient small and medium sized business community, and to support them in boosting output. But first, they must address key areas of concerns for SMEs, and access to finance is an area that requires attention.

‘We know that for many SMEs, high street banks remain the first and only port of call, so there’s a strong opportunity for Labour to increase competition in the commercial lending sector and to enable SMEs to access a wider range of options.

‘That’s why we were encouraged to see Labour commit to strengthening the British Business Bank’s Bank Referral Scheme in January. But clearly, more still needs to be done to make it work effectively. Despite much effort from the British Business Bank and the designated platforms and lenders, the number of businesses the scheme has supported since its launch in 2016 has been hugely disappointing.

‘We would urge this government to develop a new scheme that includes input from a wider array of SME funders and commercial finance brokers, to ensure that the initiative delivers for SMEs. This would ensure Labour gives SMEs more choice and agency over how they finance themselves to grow and thrive.’

Pushing talent in Britain

Keen to mobilise access to British talent and upskill more people to get into work, Michael Stull, Managing Director, ManpowerGroup UK, said:

‘After six weeks of pledges and promises from all parties, the people have spoken. We’d like to extend congratulations to Sir Keir Starmer and his Labour colleagues for securing a majority in the election.

‘ManpowerGroup has long been calling for a people-first approach to securing future prosperity for our country and to unlock the potential of its people. As millions nationwide are currently unable to either find, access or participate in work, we look forward to engaging with relevant Ministers across the new government as Labour implements the initiatives outlined in its Plan to Make Work Pay paper.

‘Better skills, leading to better quality jobs that provide sustainable earning potential, work-life balance, and wellbeing – done in ways that can be equitably accessed and shared by all – are, in our view, what’s needed to deliver a more inclusive and dynamic labour market. Under Labour’s new leadership, the UK’s transition towards the new-look economy of the future is a priority that we and others are eager to explore.’

Decisive election result a golden opportunity to plant the seeds of small business growth

Responding to the result of the General Election, Policy Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Tina McKenzie, said:

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‘Congratulations to the new Prime Minister and Government on their decisive election victory, and congratulations to the newly elected MPs from all parties. The clear result of the General Election gives hope that political stability can lead to economic stability and recovery.

‘There’s a golden chance in the first 100 days of this new administration to plant the seeds of small business growth, and there are a range of policies FSB hopes the new Government will bring forward.

‘These include measures to ease the cost of doing business and support investment and expansion. From tackling poor payment practices by big businesses to their smaller suppliers to reforming the not-fit-for-purpose business rates system.

‘The upcoming King’s Speech should include a Small Business Bill to enshrine in legislation much-needed changes to better support small firms and the self-employed.

‘Supporting and growing small businesses is good for jobs, good for communities in all parts of the country, and good for the whole economy.

‘We’re looking forward to getting down to business and working in partnership with the new Government ministers and their teams – building on how we’ve engaged constructively with them in Opposition. This will ensure that the small business voice is heard clearly and the right actions can be taken to support existing entrepreneurs and encourage new ones.’

Business finance expert George Holmes reflects on how the result could affect startups and SMEs.

As MD of business funding specialists Aurora Capital he said: ‘The incoming Labour government has emphasised its commitment to supporting UK businesses and startups throughout the election campaign, and now all eyes are on them to fulfil these promises.

‘Labour’s manifesto includes encouraging plans for startups and SMEs, but the details of their implementation remain to be seen. The proposed reform of the British Business Bank is particularly welcome, as it promises to help startups and small businesses access much-needed funding. While this is a positive step, the specifics of these reforms are not yet clear.

‘For aspiring shop owners, the upcoming business rate reform could help them turn their dreams into reality. High business rates have long priced new businesses out of our high streets, and these changes could help reverse this trend.

‘For startups and small businesses to thrive, they need support, stability, and a growing economy. If the new government delivers on its promises, we could see a positive environment in which SMEs and entrepreneurs can flourish. However, as always, the devil is in the details, and we await further information on how these promises will be realised.’

Prioritising EV to power the motor industry is vital

A focus on electrification and investment in the UK motor industry should be among the priorities of the new Labour government, says the Vehicle Remarketing Association (VRA)

Philip Nothard, chair at the trade body, said that while it was clear that the administration wouldn’t have large sums of money to spend, it should be concentrated in areas that produce the best results.

‘The Labour message throughout their campaign and really for the last 2-3 years has been all about investment and growth, and we believe that two of the key areas that would best respond to funding are electrification and motor manufacturing.

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‘We’d like to see measures to support the transition to electrification through both an acceleration of the creation of charging infrastructure – especially on urban streets – and direct help for people who want to buy a used EV.

‘It’s pretty clear that the used EV market is not yet functioning in anything approaching a normal manner and this really needs to start happening if the government is serious about its approach to zero emissions.

‘Also, we need to see more investment for manufacturers who are switching to EVs over this decade. The levels of competition in the market are ferocious, and car and van makers operating in the UK will need support to compete successfully.’

Philip added that the VRA was also interested in what the new government would do to enable training within remarketing and across wider industry.

‘Like other sectors, we are facing skills shortages and we’d like to see more done to help us attract and train the people that we need for the future. This is a problem that will affect the development of the industry going forward and needs attention.

‘We appreciate that all of these measures are probably not high on the agenda for the new administration or part of their ‘first 100 days’ plan to hit the ground running. However, they are priority areas that need attention for remarketing to succeed and where we’d like to know about the new government’s plans as soon as possible.’

Home charging is crucial over the next few years …

Cord, Halfords’ exclusive charger installing partner, believes encouraging home charging is crucial, as the financial benefits of EV ownership are essentially wiped out if drivers rely on public charging.

The average driver would spend an extra £92-£138 a month relying on public charging, obliterating any savings over petrol or diesel. Removing the VAT on public charging would only partially address this imbalance.

Cord co-founder Paul Tomlinson commented: ‘Labour’s commitment to greening the country’s fleet is admirable. But for these targets to turn into action we have make EVs a natural and affordable choice for drivers, not a luxury available to the few. The best way to do that is to make sure that as many people as possible can access home charging, which is by far the cheapest way to drive. Off-peak tariffs can make driving cost just £17 a month – around the cost of a premium Netflix subscription. But relying on public charging rockets that up to well over £100.

‘Getting every house hooked up with a home charger won’t be easy, as about a third of homes don’t have off-street parking. But there are millions of properties that could have a charger right now that don’t. Eliminating VAT on these crucial bits of tech and making clear that every tenant can install them if they want would go a long way to changing that.

‘Finally – it is absolutely crucial that we also bring down the cost of buying an EV in the first place. The UK should embrace the freedom leaving the European Union has given us and not place hefty tariffs on Chinese EVs, which are finally reaching price parity with fossil fuel equivalents. The 2030 ban will fall down in flames if EVs are still a luxury choice.’

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EV cars are heavier so improving Britain’s roads is more critical than ever

IAM RoadSmart is the UK’s largest road safety charity providing advanced driving and motorcyclist training. It has a vision of a society where all road users can safely and sustainably use the public highways together. IAM RoadSmart was formed in March 1956 and has around 75,000 members that supports its campaigns on road safety. At any one time there are over 7,000 drivers and riders actively engaged with IAM RoadSmart’s courses.

IAM RoadSmart Policy and Standards Director Nicholas Lyes said: ‘IAM RoadSmart welcomes the new Government and Ministers to their positions. Doubtless to say, there are plenty of issues that need to be addressed: Motorists are dealing with pothole-plagued roads, expensive pump prices, soaring insurance premiums and worse, progress on reducing serious and fatal road collisions has stalled for many years.

‘Work must urgently begin to create safer, more affordable roads for all, with a focus on introducing a form of Graduated Driving Licences for new drivers, which has reduced fatalities in other countries. With road traffic crashes being one of the leading causes of death among the under-25s, it’s clear that road safety needs to be top of the agenda.’

Let’s unleash the power of small businesses

Finally, as a business title it would only be appropriate to end our 2024 election comments on a small business note. Amanda Powell-Smith, CEO of Forster Communications and UN Global Compact Network UK Sustainable Development Goal Pioneer, SMEs, 2024 made the most relevant comment:

‘We need change and we voted for it. As a new Prime Minister enters Number 10, the focus is on action and delivery – and small businesses can help.

‘Amid intense discussion on policy and the City, the role of SMEs as pioneers is too often forgotten. There are over 5.6 million SMEs in the UK, accounting for around three-fifths of employment and half of turnover in the UK private sector – and I am proud to lead one of them.

‘We need our size to be recognised as a superpower, enabling agility, flexibility and freedom to quickly respond to the opportunities found in new business models and solutions that work for both people and planet.

‘There are already multiple examples of SMEs taking the lead on innovation and social entrepreneurship in the UK, but they are often hidden from sight. Globally, the social innovation sector is more than twice the size of the $875 billion advertising industry and larger than the $1.57 trillion fashion industry, with one in two of these purpose-led businesses run by women.

‘As we seek to build a new economy, one that addresses climate change and drives social justice, we must maximise the knowledge and ideas of small business leaders who are at the heart of their communities. Armed with experience and insights they are uniquely placed to devise new solutions that are relevant and work.’

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Business owners share opinions and look to the future after Labour’s win

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