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Labour set to unveil plan to back small businesses

Labour is set to promise to “pull up the shutters” for small businesses as it unveils a series of entrepreneur-friendly policies on Saturday.

Appearing alongside shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and other shadow cabinet ministers, Sir Keir Starmer is expected to accuse the Conservatives of holding back small businesses as he unveils his party’s plans for the sector.

Those plans include an overhaul of the business rates system to help high street shops compete with online giants and guaranteeing access to high street banking services by accelerating the establishment of banking hubs.

Labour will also pledge to stamp out late payment of invoices by forcing large businesses to report on their payment practices, and “revitalise” high streets by cracking down on antisocial behaviour.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves holding a microphone in front of a red backdrop with the word 'Change' on it during a General Election campaign event in 2024
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves (Lucy North/PA)

Ahead of Saturday’s event, Sir Keir said: “Travelling across the country, I meet so many small business owners who work day in, day out to grow and innovate.

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“Their entrepreneurial courage to take a risk and serve their area is what stitches the fabric of local communities together. From the women entrepreneurs I met in Swindon to the distillers of Scotland, small businesses are the beating heart of driving growth and creating jobs for local people.

“But Conservative chaos over the past 14 years has inflicted a deep and lasting cost on small business owners through economic instability and sky-rocketing energy bills.

“Through no fault of their own, hard-working small businesses have been held back by a tired Tory party that has failed to provide the stability and certainty business needs to thrive.”

Labour first put forward its plan to “breathe new life” into Britain’s high streets in April, drawing approval from trade bodies for its proposed overhaul of the business rates system.

But it is not yet clear what Labour would replace business rates with, leading some to call for more clarity on the policy.

Tina McKenzie, policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said it was “good to see late payment addressed by Labour” and eyes would now “turn towards its manifesto launch to see if the party takes a pro-small business approach”.

She said: “Our snap election poll shows that the majority of the UK’s 5.5 million small business votes are up for grabs.”

Ms McKenzie added: “As the election gets into its final stage, it’s crucial political parties reassure small businesses on tax, on protecting small business apprenticeships, and on having the right legislative environment to support growth.”

Business minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “Labour remain committed to imposing Angela Rayner’s French-style union laws that would hammer our vital small businesses.

“Labour’s policies would reduce flexible working and pile new regulations onto small companies, destroying jobs alongside their £2,094 tax raid on hardworking families.

“Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have a record of taking bold action to support small businesses, including freezing business rates, helping small business owners gain the skills they need, and lifting more small businesses out of paying VAT.”