Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP has joined forces with Warwick and Leamington parliamentary candidate Lynnette Kelly to raise awareness of the forthcoming Small Business Saturday event.
They visited Lamats hardware store in Regent Place, Old Town, where they met co-owner Paul Haslam and several other small business owners where they discussed the issues faced by entrepreneurs in today’s economic climate.
Mr Umunna told them that if Labour were to win next year’s General Election the party would help small businesses by cutting and then freezing business rates from 2015 to 2017, help them to get the finance they need through a British investment bank and saving them, on average, £5,000 with an energy price freeze. He said: “We want to help people get on and achieve their dreams and aspirations and the inspirational story I’ve just heard from Kelly Iles, who in 18 months has set up a business with three branches and now employes more than ten people, is incredible and I want to see that become a reality for more people.
“Small Business Saturday is about celebrating all about what people like Kelly do for our communities and assuring we give life to what I call ‘The British Dream’ which is that sense that if you work hard, play by the rules and put in the graft, you can make it.”
Ms Kelly said Labour would also look at the planning process to promote fair competition among retailers and to give councils more power to accept and refuse the types of businesses they do and do not want in particular areas.
Mr Umunna said Labour would also be looking to change the Localism Act to promote more diversity on the high street in the planning decision making process.
On the issues facing small businesses at present, Mr Umunna said: “On the high street business rates is up there and I’d say the second issue is finance, the third issue is skills and the last is parking.
“If you’re looking at our high street thoroughfares, parking - certainly from my point of view - should not be used as a cash cow by our local authorities particularly given that if you have successful local businesses you have a successful local economy and parking does get in the way of shops being able to succeed. If you have heavy goods and heavy products you need to be able to park but that’s a devolved matter.”
Small Business Saturday takes place on December 6.
Mr Umunna first called for the British version of what was originally an American event, in January 2013, and last year the event led to an extra £500 million of spending in small businesses. Praising small businesses like Lamats, Ms Kelly said: “They know what they’re selling and they know what their products are and you don’t get that level of service in the big shops.”
Mr Umunna added: “You want someone who is going to champion small and local businesses like this and we have that here.”