Next Government must back small businesses to boost UK towns and cities 

It’s election manifesto season, all delivered within the space of a week and into the eager hands of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) to be analysed for cost implications and social equality

Next Government must back small businesses to boost UK towns and cities

First to drop in England was the Labour’s Small Business Saturday manifesto, then the Liberal Democrats, followed by Reform UK, the Conservatives, Green Party, Plaid Cymru following up with Labour’s wider manifesto headlining with wealth creation.  

What is emerging very clearly is that the major parties have identified the UK’s strivers, the self-starters, the entrepreneurs and the small business founders as a key swing voting constituency. 

Labour is pledging to scrap business rates – a well-documented thorn in the side of business that has in part been blamed for the demise of our high streets.  The Conservatives are promising to abolish National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed, and the Liberal Democrats want to take us back into the single union to boost trade. And they are right to focus on small businesses. 

That’s because a thriving small business sector is a catalyst for a more prosperous, resilient, and inclusive society. Small businesses innovate more, they create better jobs and deliver a bigger boost to their local economy. 

Research, also out this week, to coincide with the 50th G7 Summit in Italy, suggests governments should make focusing on support for local economies outside of London the key priority. 

We agree and it’s exactly why Enterprise Nation has focused its own Manifesto suggestions around this fundamental point. 

Climbing the Summit: Big cities in the UK and the G7, from the think tank Centre for Cities points to a large prosperity gap between workers in towns and cities outside of the capital and their US, French and German counterparts.  Simply put, this is down to ‘underperformance in the UK’s secondary cities’.  

It makes the case that if you have healthy and innovative local economies, you can solve all sorts of other community problems. 

Our manifesto also focuses on supporting small businesses to increase their understanding and incorporate digital technology into their broad business model. The next industrial revolution is already underway. There is absolutely no doubt that technology is going to underpin the UK’s long-term economic prosperity. If we fail to tackle the UK’s digital performance record now, we’re just storing up problems for years, and possibly decades to come. 

Our manifesto advocates for the introduction of some consistency and centralisation to business support. Our private-sector-led Tech Hub, could be part of the answer that could see more small firms and start-ups benefit from the productivity gains technology and access to the right support at the right time can bring. 

The next government must create a new era where the voices of small business owners are not only heard but celebrated, helping our next political leaders shape policies that pave the way for sustainable success that benefits all our local communities, and could help us to be heralded as a success within the G7. 

In our small business manifesto, we’ve backed-up our ideas with independent research, Enterprise Nation has identified decisive ways the next government can make a meaningful difference to the UK’s growing start-up and small business community, helping them to innovate and create good jobs in their own communities. 

Businesses need easy access to markets, technology, finance, space, people and power.  

Here are the policy areas we’d like to see tackled by the next government:  

Access to markets

Prioritisingmeasures that enable small businesses to access both domestic and international markets efficiently. A thriving export market, and a seamless process for small firms to sell their innovations into the public sector, are essential for the growth and prosperity of small businesses in the UK. 

Access to technology

Success in the global business community hinges on across the board technology adoption to enhance productivity, innovation and competitiveness. This could be efficiently delivered by a centralised one stop shop for business support.  

Access to finance

to foster small business growth, the government must facilitate access to capital, with added emphasis on supporting female founders to raise funds. 

Access to people

Supporting small businesses to attract, train and retain skilled workers is key to sustainability. One way of doing this is by opening up opportunities to work with older people who have left the workforce.  

Access to space 

Entrepreneurs need access to affordable space in convenient areas and at the same time local high streets needs revitalising.One idea is to give local authorities powers to take over empty shops and reopen them as thriving commercial ventures, empowering small businesses and removing ugly eyesores.  

Access to power

The way the government interacts with the real small businesses that power the economy must change. It is understandable that attention is given to the next unicorn but we must also usher in a new era where the voices of small business owners are not only heard but amplified. When small businesses thrive, everyone benefits. 

Enterprise Nation has set out its manifesto in detail here. 

Emma Jones CBE
Emma Jones CBE

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