General election 2019: Labour claims public sector pay boost would be a boon for small businesses during visit to South Ribble

Labour’s plans for a five percent increase in public sector wages if they win the general election will give a boost to small businesses and high streets, according to a senior party figure visiting Lancashire.

Labour’s plans for a five percent increase in public sector wages if they win the general election will give a boost to small businesses and high streets, according to a senior party figure visiting Lancashire.

Kim Snape, Labour candidate for South Ribble, is joined by the party's shadow international trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, in Leyland

Kim Snape, Labour candidate for South Ribble, is joined by the party's shadow international trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, in Leyland

Speaking after a roundtable discussion with business owners in Leyland, shadow international development secretary Barry Gardiner said that the move would “put money back in the hands of local people”.

He also claimed that the policy would offset a proposed increase in corporation tax for small businesses, which would go up from 19 to 21 percent for those paying the rate on “small profits” of under £300,000.

“If small businesses get greater footfall, it’s not their level of corporation tax that’s really going to worry them,” Mr. Gardiner said.

“They need people coming in with money to spend and that’s what Labour is going to - think of the boost to a place like Leyland of a five percent increase in the wages of public sector workers, which would come in immediately, and a year-on-year increase which would keep pace with inflation.

Mr. Gardiner added that Labour would end periodic revaluations of the business rates paid by high street firms and introduce more regular reassessments to end the “sudden jumps” which prevent businesses from planning for the future.

The party’s manifesto also includes a pledge to stop high street bank closures. Pressed on what powers a Labour government would have in that regard, Mr. Gardiner said it would “work with the whole of the financial community to make sure that they are providing the services that people need”.

“One of the ways we’ll do it is by our proposals for merging the Royal Mail and the Post Office and providing a banking facility through that,” he said.

Quizzed over whether the Conservatives have stolen a march on Labour on the small business agenda - Leyland is one of 100 places shortlisted for up to £25m from the government’s Towns Fund to improve local skills and grow the economy - Mr. Gardiner took a swipe at the government's proposals.

“It may be a very nice Conservative leaflet, but it needs to become more than a leaflet,” he said.

Leyland has so far been allocated £162,000 in “capacity funding” to enable it to produce a town investment plan - the deals themselves are scheduled to be agreed during 2020/21.

Mr. Gardiner also denied that the launch of the Labour manifesto yesterday had failed to generate the same levels of enthusiasm as their 2017 document.

“That’s not what I’ve picked up on the doorstep - people are excited by what they see as a huge programme of investment in theirs and their children’s future,” he said, claiming that Labour's "grey book" of costings showed that it could be afforded.

The shadow secretary of state was in the South Ribble constituency to support Labour’s candidate at next month’s poll, Kim Snape.

She said: “The Labour manifesto has so much to offer the people of South Ribble and particularly small businesses. When you think of our proposal for free superfast broadband - that could help transform companies in places like Leyland, not to mention households in Buckshaw Village which are still without it."

HOW THE OPPOSITION PARTIES SEE IT

Responding to the issues discussed during the Labour visit, this is what the other parties had to say.

Conservative candidate Katherine Fletcher said: “Labour’s proposals are well-meaning, but not well-costed. Increases in corporation taxes and the hundreds of billions in their manifesto will hit us all in the pocket through increased inflation and borrowing costs.

“Conservative proposals put small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy, centre stage - with acceptable levels of corporation tax, reduced business rates for high streets and sound fiscal policies, through which we will all have more money in our pockets than under a Jeremy Corbyn government.”

Liberal Democrat candidate Jo Barton said: “We’ve seen a massive decline in high street businesses to the extent that 10-15 percent of our town centres are now empty.

“We’re trying to give our high streets a boost and so we want to scrap business rates altogether and instead tax the people who are renting out properties to businesses - because they're making a lot of money.

“I’d also like to see the large vacant units left behind by the collapse of big stores turned into smaller alternatives like markets.”

Green Party candidate Andy Fewings was contacted for comment.