Labour announces plans for Post Office business advisers as part of 20-point plan to help small firms

Party says new organisation would be 'one-stop shop' for smaller companies, while Liberal Democrats announce new plans to help disadvantaged children

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Thursday 05 December 2019 23:58 GMT
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Labour has announced plans to set up a network of business advisers in Post Office branches to help small firms access support and finance.

The party said that a government led by Jeremy Corbyn would create a Post Office bank called the Post Bank and appoint experts at larger branches to help advise local businesses.

The advisers would be part of a new Business Development Agency that Labour said would be a "one-stop shop" for small businesses.

The organisation would help small firms to access advice, finance and government contracts, as well as championing them across government, Labour said.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, announced the plans as she unveiled 20 pledges designed to help small businesses and reinvigorate high streets.

The business advisers would help smaller companies to access financing provided by the Post Bank, while a new online portal similar to those set up in the US and Australia would tell business owners where to go to get support.

Other pledges designed to help small businesses include setting up a £250bn National Investment Bank and a network of regional banks to provide finance, guaranteeing free high-speed broadband for every home and workplace, providing more funding for training and scrapping quarterly reporting for smaller firms.

Government contracts would also be used to support smaller companies, and the business rates system would be reformed to cut their taxes.

Ms Long-Bailey said: "Small businesses, the lifeblood of our economy and our communities, are being stretched to breaking point by global corporations which evade their taxes and fail to pay their suppliers on time. This inequality scars our country.

“Small businesses are vital to a thriving economy. Labour wants business support and finance to be available for entrepreneurs from the moment the seed of an idea is planted.

“Labour’s Business Development Agency will create thriving businesses within our communities, bringing life back to local economies. The agency is part of 20 pledges we are making because Labour is on the side of small business. It’s time for real change.”

The announcement came as the Liberal Democrats promised to treble funding for disadvantaged 3- and 4-year-olds.

The party said it would increase the Early Years Pupil Premium, which helps children from poorer backgrounds, from £302 per pupil per year to £1,000.

It has also vowed to invest £1bn a year in children's services and extend free childcare.

Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “The achievement gap between richer and poorer children can best be closed in the early years. But under the Conservatives, it’s widening. We cannot allow disadvantaged children to be left behind before they have even started school.

“Liberal Democrats will transform the lives of families with a massive expansion of free, high-quality childcare. At the same time, we’ll give nurseries more money dedicated to supporting children from the poorest families and children in care.

“By investing in the early years, we can give every child a great start in life.”

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