Only Labour can save SMEs

Labour must defend small and medium-sized businesses from hikes in business rates, argues Ibrahim Dogus

Small businesses in London are to be further burdened with a new hike in business rates. This is going to be a massive blow to the capital’s small businesses, compounding the troubles they have faced since Brexit. It is small businesses which are the life blood of our communities and the drive that makes our city great. Once again, it is shockingly clear how little this government cares about small businesses and communities.

This is a chance for the Labour party to renew its commitment to small businesses and communities. Labour has long been their champion and has resisted punitive rate hikes on numerous occasions. This time should be no exception and gives Labour a great way to show its solidarity with working people and to demonstrate that it is our party that understands what people actually need.

Hackney and Lambeth seemed to be facing the biggest hike in business rates of anywhere in Britain. It is certainly true that gentrification has given a boost to business in Hackney and that the wealth of this success should be shared around.

However, this is neither the time nor the way to be doing this. Not all businesses in Hackney have benefited from gentrification but nonetheless are vital to the communities they serve and to maintaining the character of the area, one of the things that make it so appealing. Coming now amid the economic uncertainty of Brexit, this rate hike could gut Hackney of what makes it special and do untold damage to our communities.

The same goes for the booming ‘tech hub’ set of businesses in Hackney, which are powering Britain’s status as a global technology leader. It is through the innovations of these smaller businesses that our economy manages to stay competitive. By choosing to punish these businesses with its business rate hike, the Conservatives are demonstrating, once again, that they are no friend to small and medium-sized businesses.

We see this in the borough of Lambeth as well, a melting pot and a powerhouse of innovation. These new rate hikes are stifling growth. We are seeing entrepreneurs relocating, holding back the progress these hubs have created. It seems that disorganisation is dictating every aspect of the Conservatives’ approach to post-Brexit Britain.

Thankfully, Labour are once again at the helm of initiatives to save small businesses and protect communities. Guy Nicholson of Hackney council has written to the chancellor Phillip Hammond, warning him of the effect these cuts will have. In the last election, Labour pledged to cut business rates to put small businesses first if elected. Now, Labour councils are doing all they can to shield their constituents from the Conservative onslaught.

In Lambeth, for example the council has launched a number of schemes to help residents economise as best they can. The deputy leader of Lambeth council has been visiting businesses throughout the borough to promote the relief schemes that are available. In 2010, Labour led the resistance against the hikes. Last year, Labour was advocating cutting business rates. Now, once again, Labour can organise and resist.

From the newly elected mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, to countless Labour politicians across London, there are people campaigning to protect small businesses and communities. We call on Labour to stand in solidarity with working people and resist these hikes to save small businesses.