Business owners across the UK comment on Labour’s landslide win

Business owners across the UK comment on Labour’s landslide win

5 Jul    Business, Finance News, News

Will Labour’s manifesto have the positive effect that business owners desperately need?

It’s the day that many people have been waiting for, after a 14 year Conservative rule in government the British public have voted and Labour has won by a landslide.

But how will this impact SMEs? I set out to find out the opinion from Britain’s business owners across the nation about Labour’s change which promises to ‘end the chaos’ and put the Great back into Great Britain.

Across the nation, business owners are keen to see if the Labour Party will keep the promises made in their manifesto and hope they will react quickly to change.

Tax relief is high on people’s agendas

Sean Massey, a Management Consultant, based in Cambridge, said:

‘The Labour party’s manifesto only contains general messages on growth, nothing even starting to be specific on this topic. The current government has made some positive progress on this issue over the past ten years with the British Bank and a large collection of innovation grants, plus the R&D Tax Credit Scheme.

‘New grants and tax breaks would really help the small business community to invest at a scale, and this would keep the UK at the forefront of tech. This kind of innovation is what smaller businesses excel at – and it’s not entirely clear how Labour’s plan will support these essential innovators.

‘Research indicates that a review of the business rates system could offer some relief to small business owners, 27% of whom wanted reducing the tax burden to be a top priority for the new government.

‘Across the board, rising costs present the most pressing challenge for smaller vendors, with the hospitality sector facing some of the greatest increases. The British Beer and Pub Association reported that 1,000 pubs have closed since 2021, at a rate of 500 closures per year.’

Will small businesses get the support they need in the time that they need it?

Bea Montoya, Chief Operating Officer at insurance broker, Simply Business UK, said ‘Small businesses have been in a state of limbo throughout the campaigning period, and now is the time for Labour to double down and get to work on promises made in their manifesto.

‘As the new government steps in, small business owners face a torrent of challenges. Over a third of small business owners believe this change in leadership will have absolutely no impact on them. This feeling of apathy – though understandable – is uncharacteristic for the sector, which has shown seemingly boundless resilience over the past few years.

‘The new government needs to set the tone for their leadership, and small businesses can be a catalyst for change in the wider economy. Our research shows that, if provided the right economic conditions, small businesses would create over one and a half million new jobs. De-prioritising this enterprising community would be a missed opportunity for the government, and we hope that the new leaders can deliver on their proposals.’

Rebekah Ann, owner of independent, eco-friendly jewellery store Rebekah Ann Jewellery in Brighton, said:

‘There are definitely issues within the Labour Party that have made me less confident in them compared to the past, but I still believe that their leadership could bring about some positive changes compared to the current government.

‘I completely self-funded my venture by saving – which, on my wage at the time, wasn’t easy. Now, even with five years as a business owner under my belt, I continue to face hurdles in securing the funding I need to grow the business. I have a solid track record of how the business is performing, independent review, and positive projections, but I’ve still struggled to get face-to-face appointments with business bank managers.

‘When I do manage to apply for funding, my efforts are often met with rejection, with little to no explanation as to why. I have no way of knowing how to improve my application, and the business – although in great shape – just can’t be taken to the next level. I look forward to seeing what solutions Labour can implement to genuinely support our growth.’

Can Labour make accountancy a business friendly environment?

Bruce Cartwright CA, CEO at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), said:

‘We congratulate and welcome the new Labour Prime Minister and his colleagues following their historic victory last night. As the oldest professional accountancy body in the world, it’s our job to work in the public interest and we’re optimistic about working with the new government to make positive changes for the UK and Scotland.

‘We hope the new Labour government will quickly bring forward the long-delayed audit and corporate governance reforms that will help restore trust in business and protect livelihoods. Investing in HMRC to address poor service levels, enhancing apprenticeship programmes and routes into professions, and increasing funding for accountancy and financial education will all be crucial steps for Labour to support the business community.

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‘Labour’s sustainability commitments now need to prioritise bringing forward legally enforced reporting standards, re-positioning the UK as leaders in sustainability and net-zero goals.

‘Lastly, we urge collaboration to improve financial regulation, ensuring it is fair, proportionate, and enhances our global reputation as a business-friendly environment.’

Service in the capital

If Keir Starmer is looking to hop into a Black Cab during his time in London, he might want to take Sam Pooke, Senior Public Affairs Manager at FREENOW UK’s opinion into account. Representing Black Cabs and ride hires across London he said:

‘On behalf of FREENOW, we would like to congratulate the Labour Party for winning the 2024 General Election. The newly elected Labour government has a lot of work to do when it comes to VAT treatment for private hire journeys to ensure the regime is fair and there is a level playing field across the industry.

‘We encourage the new government to work closely with the Mayor of London to tackle existing challenges in the taxi sector, particularly reversing the declining number of black cab drivers and the high cost of EV vehicles to ensure this iconic trade can thrive and continues providing its outstanding service to Londoners and visitors’.

Is the future certain for EV development?

The switch to EV saw a massive blow with the present government’s plan to delay uptake. Business owners across the EV marketplace share their thoughts, all in solid agreement that fleet support in the EV sector is key to Britain reaching its net zero target …

Adam Hall, Director of Energy Services at Drax Electric Vehicles urges the new government to incentivise electric vehicle businesses:

‘The new Labour government’s priority must be to build on the growing momentum towards Net Zero and to support the EV industry to develop in a way that makes it work for everybody. Fast and accessible charging for all vehicle types – including vans and HGVs – along with government grants and subsidies are a key part of instilling confidence among businesses and consumers, making the prospect of switching to an EV an attractive one.

‘Fleet-operating businesses, who continue to be the driving force behind EV market growth, require clarity around future rates and taxes to help inform their decision-making. We’d therefore urge the government to prioritise the publication of Company Car Tax (CCT) rates for 2028 and beyond and give confirmation that the Plug-In Van Grant and Workplace Charging Scheme will continue past March next year.

‘At the same time, we’d ask them to explore other ways in which we can reward and incentivise businesses who invest in EVs and renewable energy infrastructure.

‘We’d also like to see a continued commitment to the implementation of the standards set out in the 2023 Public Charge Point Regulations, such as a 24/7 helpline for drivers and mandatory contactless payment options. There’s also an urgent need for more accessible charging, particularly for van drivers and disabled drivers, to ensure that everyone has the same positive experience while topping up their vehicle.’

Michael Topham, CEO, Biffa, calls on the new Government to introduce more Zero Emission Zones to encourage better uptake of EVs – which will be key for decarbonisation in the waste industry:

‘The transition to decarbonised energy and transport systems is increasingly urgent, and the waste sector must move to no or low carbon collection fleets.

‘Biffa has already started to adopt alternative fuels across our fleet, with more than 94 battery electric vehicles and electric HGVs, and 64 renewable diesel (including HVO) fueled vehicles, in service.

‘A huge obstacle to further decarbonisation, identified by Labour, is the electricity distribution grid. Here we need to up the pace, and we must ensure that costs for grid upgrades are not imposed only on the first to act.

‘We also welcome Labour’s commitment to accelerating the roll out of charge points; shared charging infrastructure should be encouraged to save space in metropolitan areas. At all times it is vital that electrical commercial vehicles are given equal focus as domestic vehicles.

‘To support the transition to net zero, we’re also urging the Government to introduce zero emissions zones, speeding up adoption of electric vehicles, stimulating innovation and investment in new technologies, and improving air quality and reducing noise.’

A call for strategic investment in electrification of fleets to achieve Net Zero from Richard Staveley, CEO, EO Charging:

‘The Labour Party’s election manifesto, to positively impact climate change by accelerating the move to greener transport and developing the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) is welcomed by the sector. Now, at this critical time for climate change, the industry needs determined action and expects the Labour government to deliver on their election manifesto.

‘Transport is responsible for almost a quarter of global emissions, with commercial fleets accounting for a large proportion of this.

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‘The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) found that out of the 679,822 EVs sold in the UK in 2024 so far, 407,661 were across the fleet sector. However, due to the high initial costs of electrification, commercial and public sector fleets often rely on local governments to distribute EV funding. We’ve already seen a dramatic positive impact from initiatives such as the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme that have enabled bus operators to electrify their fleets at pace. Introducing similar schemes to support commercial fleet electrification will undoubtedly have a positive impact and will accelerate EV fleet adoption. If funding does not materialise, this will delay fleet electrification, and achieving Net Zero goals will become incredibly difficult.

‘We already know that developing and investing in the right infrastructure to support electrification is important, but focusing on the electrification of commercial and public sector fleets is fundamental. We need to see Labour developing and implementing a strategy that tackles the challenges to EV adoption and creates long-term reliable funding, particularly for commercial and public sector fleets, which stand to have the greatest environmental impact.

‘Labour must commit to a robust funding strategy that transcends local politics and ensures a stable environment for fleet operators to transition to EVs. Exploring alternative funding models such as Scotland’s direct-to-operator approach, which streamlines the process and empowers fleets to use resources effectively, could be another answer.’

When asked: ‘What does Labour need to prioritise when it comes to cyber security?’

Al Lakhani, CEO of IDEE, said: “For all the election noise, cyber security was absent. In a way this is understandable; there are many other social and economic issues to focus on when trying to woo voters. But as the dust settles on this election and a new party comes to power, continuing to overlook cyber security would be a grave mistake.

‘The electoral commission: hacked. NHS hospitals: hacked. Countless UK businesses: hacked. How many attacks are too many? With Labour coming into power for the first time in 14 years, a comprehensive strategy to strengthen the UK’s cyber defences is urgently needed. The EU is implementing the NIS2 directive, why does the UK lag in securing its digital infrastructure? It’s time for the government to wake up, smell the coffee and develop a plan to change this.

‘But businesses must also act. It’s high time for a radical shift away from outdated security methods and 1st generation MFA. We need state-of-the-art, same device MFA 2.0 solutions to crush phishing and password-based attacks. No more delays – let’s safeguard the UK’s digital landscape for good.’

AI and privacy needs governance

Looking specifically at the future of tech in the UK where AI is concerned, Alasdair Anderson, VP of leading data protection platform Protegrity commented:

‘With AI spurring business transformation and causing an influx of AI-based attacks, it will be a challenge for both the government and businesses to strike a balance between growth in the AI sector and improving cybersecurity measures and regulations. Before these measures can be put in place, it is likely UK organisations will continue to see an increase in AI-based attacks.

‘Following the success of the Labour Party a big theme they must contend with in the coming years is Artificial Intelligence (AI). In their manifestos both Labour and Conservative committed to facilitating growth in the UK AI sector through tactics such as building more data centres and driving adoption in the public and business sectors. However as both parties are aware, the ascent of AI will increase the occurrence of AI-based attacks from bad actors, and as such increased cyber security measures must be a priority.

‘Gartner states that approximately 80% of enterprises will have used Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI), Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), or models by 2026. As AI is a disruptor and presents breakthroughs in the ability to process logic differently, it is attracting attention from businesses and consumers alike, which creates the potential for their data to be put at risk.

‘Meanwhile, the cybercrime industry will be quickly adopting AI technologies, informing more innovative AI-based attacks. As such, through 2024 there may continue to be an increase in AI-based attacks until businesses and government bodies can put in place robust and ethical AI cyber-security measures. The importance at this time will be in employing safe data practices so private information is always protected.

‘This drives the need for stringent data privacy controls and regulations to safeguard individual information and ensure that even when using AI, an individual’s data is not exposed publicly, and bad actors won’t have easy access to it.’

Can the UK become a destination for tech startups?

Keen to see the UK become a respected hotbed for tech startups, particularly health tech, Santosh Sahu, CEO and founder of pharmacy tech platform Charac, shares his thoughts on the next steps for the new Labour government to support healthtechs and other startups in the UK:

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‘The priority for the new Government in supporting the UK’s tech and startup sector should be to increase funding in high-growth enterprises with potential. The biggest challenge our startup landscape is facing is the exodus of businesses from the UK to the US, with 24% of UK healthtech SMEs preferring to launch in the US rather than the UK.

‘The lure of Silicon Valley is in part due to the funding available – US financial schemes through agencies such as DARPA and NASA, have been instrumental in Silicon Valley’s growth. However, we do not just need more money from the Government but from investors. VCs in the US last year invested $170bn in startups, compared to $22bn in the UK. Supporting tax-efficient incentives, such as EIS, SEIS and VCT schemes for investors can drive more investment in our nation’s exciting startups.

‘Despite the UK seeing the third-most healthtech investment globally, the US is seen as a markedly more attractive market for startups. In addition to funding, this is because of a more supportive regulatory environment – 46% of healthtech companies have removed products from the UK market due to regulatory uncertainty. Healthtech today in the UK is comparable to where fintech was over a decade ago, and it was regulations such as Open Banking and a regulatory sandbox that facilitated the UK becoming a world leader in fintech. This is something the Government has not yet addressed – and with Labour’s calls for a more digital, interconnected NHS, they will need to look at regulations that actually facilitate competition, collaboration, and interoperability to accelerate the UK’s economy, and create a more favourable environment for startups.’

What about the post-16 education strategy?

EngineeringUK, along with the National Engineering Policy Centre, are particularly keen to see a National Engineering and Technology Workforce Strategy.

EngineeringUK Chief Executive, Hilary Leevers commented:

‘We look forward to the new government acting on its manifesto commitments to develop workforce and training plans and a post-16 education strategy and ensure that more young people gain access to apprenticeships and other training opportunities.

‘The Labour manifesto also pledged to tackle careers education, promising to recruit an extra thousand careers advisers, develop a broader curriculum, and address STEM teacher recruitment and retention. With severe and growing STEM teacher shortages – just over 1,600 vacancies compared to around 1,300 a year ago – EngineeringUK is urging the government to commit to investing in teacher professional development, which research shows is not just a ‘nice to have’ but can significantly prolong teaching careers.

‘As the new government has rightly recognised, we need to nurture a greater pool of talent in engineering and technology including more apprenticeship opportunities for young people, to meet current demand and to help our economy to thrive and to achieve our net zero goal.

‘In order to address skills shortages in the future, the workforce strategy needs to link to a comprehensive education and skills plan underpinned by enhanced careers advice in schools and an urgent solution to current STEM teacher shortages.  We will be doing what we can to support the new government in taking action to turbo charge the sector.’

Labour needs to be mindful of the impact of their decisions on global expansion

Zain Ali, CEO and founder of Centuro Global – a global mobility business that monitors changes in immigration, tax, business, and employment law across 170+ countries said:

‘This election result signifies a moment of change and opportunity for the business community after a decade of difficulties with Brexit, Covid, and instability within the Conservative party leadership. We look forward to seeing how the new government will address economic challenges and foster growth and innovation.
‘In terms of support for businesses, I hope to see an increased focus on boosting investment in R&D, particularly with its manifesto commitments to boost AI development and create a ‘pro-innovation regulatory framework’.
‘While there is optimism, though, Labour must urgently clarify its plans to reform the immigration and visa system. If Keir Starmer is truly serious about spurring economic growth, relief is needed for the skills-intensive businesses currently struggling to recruit the highly specialised workers they need with the burdensome system recently introduced by the Tories. The business community needs decisive action and clear policies to drive growth, and any delays could impact confidence and investment.
‘Overall, we are cautiously optimistic. The potential for positive change is significant, and if Labour can deliver on its promises, the future for UK businesses looks bright. The focus must be on creating a supportive environment that addresses business needs and drives the economy forward.’

Cherry Martin

Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.

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