Lead by example before you lead small business - NFB

Posted On: 
19th September 2018

Shadow Business Minister Bill Esterson MP has spoken to The House magazine about setting up an agency which will offer loans and advice to small and medium-sized (SME) businesses to help them expand.

Inspired by a US system set up by President Eisenhower, Labour hopes it will shake off its image as an anti-business party.

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) welcomes the focus on SMEs and is encouraged to see more politicians attuned to understanding the key role of SMEs in fuelling the local and national economy.

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SMEs account for 99% of Britain’s businesses and employ 60% of the private sector’s workforce. With a fifth of them operating in construction, SMEs are the lifeblood of the regional and national economy.

In the construction industry, 66% of apprentices are trained and retained by SMEs who normally operate within 15 miles of their head offices. However, large companies remain frontrunners in securing procurement contracts and getting planning permission for new homes.

If the Labour Party wants to offer meaningful loans and advice to SMEs, it needs to first understand the environment in which they operate.

For example, SME house builders often struggle to secure a pipeline of work and they identify the planning process as their number one barrier to growth. Planning reform is too often left off the agenda for change, with access to finance cited as a solution despite being predicated on obtaining planning permission.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: “This is a positive contribution to the debate on the housing crisis and we welcome both its ambition and focus. SMEs underpin the regional and national economy by sustaining employment and productivity.”

“If the Labour Party is serious about helping SMEs expand, they must first understand the settings in which they operate. They could immediately bring this about in construction, where a fifth of all SMEs operate, by delivering and sharing best practice models for plan making and planning. With planning devolved to local government and the Welsh assembly, Labour already has a chance to lead by example.”