Simon Danczuk outlines his party’s plans for attracting small businesses.

For the next chapter of the Labour Party’s history to be a successful one, it’s absolutely critical for us to win over independent retailers.

We’ve seen a growth in the number of small businesses in recent times and one of the things which makes them so important is that they are opinion formers. Business owners have members of staff and regular customers with whom, along with their family, they will be interacting with all the time. This gives them a great influence and it’s important that Labour is seen to be on their side.

How can we do this? If we look at our offer at the general election in May I think there were some positives and some lessons to learn.

In terms of policy, I think we had a reasonable offer last time around. Our pledge to reverse the corporation tax cut in order to fund a reduction in business rates for small firms would have benefited many independent retailers. We now await the government’s proposals and must scrutinise their plans to stop them creating a system that only helps big business.

In other areas we put business under the cosh, however. Our immigration policy would have put the onus on employers to check the legal status of employees but that should be a job for governments, not individual businesses.

Additionally, I think that we were guilty of letting ourselves be cast, as a party, as anti-business. Ed Miliband, our then leader, didn’t get around enough businesses (of any size) and he wasn’t seen talking about businesses or to businesses. This softer campaigning makes a big difference when people are working out if a politician is on their side.

One thing is clear though: there’s a real need for the Labour Party to offer an alternative to this government, as the current National Living Wage debate shows.

The Conservative Party are introducing a new higher wage without reducing the tax burden on small businesses who will therefore find it difficult pay. Ironically, the sharp rise won’t make employees better off thanks to the reduction in tax credits they’re pushing through.

Whether it’s because employees feel that work no longer pays or because small businesses can’t afford their wages, many stores are going to lose really loyal staff. We may then also see a surge in young people from Eastern European countries coming into the UK to fill some of these posts.

So what should Labour offer instead? One way that we could help retailers in the future is to say that all small businesses – and we’d have to see where the line is – are taken out of business rates altogether. Reducing the burden on small businesses would free up money for them to pay their employees a little bit more. I think that could be a good solution, but it’ll be up to our team in the coming months to create an offer that will appeal to you.