Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you to everyone who contacted me about supporting the hospitality sector.
Thanks to the hard-work and entrepreneurial spirit of our small business owners, London’s fantastic hospitality sector is world-class and one of the best things about living in our vibrant capital city. But hospitality businesses have had a really difficult time over the past few years, with the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis putting many under immense strain. And that’s not even to mention the damage done to businesses by thirteen years of Tory economic mismanagement, including the chaos of last year’s disastrous minibudget.
This is an issue the Labour is treating with the utmost seriousness. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves’s five-point plan to get the everyday economy thriving again is a fundamental cornerstone of her plans to transform our economy. We would:
- Cut business rates: high street businesses shouldn’t face big tax hikes whilst online giants are let off the hook. Labour would cut business rates for small businesses on the high street, paid for by properly taxing online giants. Our policy would be worth over £2.6k to the average pub, café, or restaurant.
- Cut energy bills: many beloved high street businesses face an uncertain future due to spiking energy bills. Labour will help them cut their bills for good with vouchers for energy efficiency measures – such as double glazing, a new heat pump, or an electric vehicle.
- Stamp out late payments: high street firms shouldn’t be forced to wait months to be paid for work by big clients. Labour would introduce tough new laws to stamp out late payments and make sure more money gets to high street firms.
- Revamp empty shops: people won’t visit high streets blighted by unsightly boarded up shops. Labour will give councils strong new powers to bring empty shops on their high streets back into use.
- Tackle anti-social behaviour: people should feel safe when they visit their local high street. Labour will get 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs back on our streets and introduce new measures to crackdown on antisocial behaviour like the graffiti and petty crime that undermines local economies.
And we must reform the Tories’ failed apprenticeship levy, which Labour would replace with a Growth and Skills Levy that will give businesses the flexibility they need to train their workforce and grow our economy. This new levy will enable firms to spend up to 50% of their levy contributions, including current underspend, on non-apprenticeship training, including modular courses and functional skills courses to tackle key skills gaps.
Finally, we also need to take action to ensure an energy bills crisis like the one we’re currently experiencing can never happen again. That’s why, way back in March last year, Labour launched a plan for achieving energy security, avoiding future price shocks, and keeping bills down, which includes our plan to launch a publicly owned renewable energy company, GB Energy, as part of our ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions from energy generation by 2030. That’s the kind of bold action we need, not doubling down on our reliance on fossil fuels and dictators like Vladimir Putin.
In response to our plans, the Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, Mike Cherry, said: “The gauntlet has been thrown down… and we hope Government Ministers are listening. This is what a pro-small business tax policy looks like.” And it’s also why the Chair of Tesco said that when it comes to having a plan to support business, Labour is the only team on the field.
We urgently need a government that understands the challenges that are being faced by our high streets, and with a credible plan to fix things. That’s why I’ll be fighting to get a Labour government elected at the next general election. But until then, please rest assured that I will continue to push the government to provide the financial support and long-term energy security our fantastic hospitality businesses need and deserve.