Leading politicians from the UK’s major parties spent the final week of campaigning ahead of the general election pushing for the votes of independent retailers.

At a husting organised by the Federation of Small Businesses and Association of Convenience Stores, representatives from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties agreed greater business rates support was needed for small businesses.

David Gauke, chief secretary for the treasury, confirmed the Conservatives would ensure future revaluations would happen more regularly and said the government was looking to speed up delivery of its £430m package of reliefs.

However, he argued business rates’ growing importance to council funding could lead to local authorities being more “business orientated”.

But John McDonnell was critical of the wait faced by businesses. He said: “The guidance has only just come out and the local councils have said ‘we’re operating completely in the dark’.”

The Labour shadow chancellor highlighted the struggle small businesses faced in terms of financial support.

“We will end quarterly reporting for small businesses, we will clamp down on late payments and we will set up a national investment to make low cost, long-term finance available,” he said.

The major parties’ manifestos also highlight the already challenging staff wages are likely increase. Only UKIP has not pledged a significant rise in the National Living Wage, though the party does promise more funding for enforcing it.

Arjan Mehr, of Londis Bracknell, attended the event. He said he felt the representatives were sympathetic towards helping small businesses, but said no one addressed key issues such as revising the rates system. “They don’t realise how urgent it is for many retailers,” he said.

Ralph Patel, of The Look Inn in Woodmansterne, Surrey, urged retailers to see what response local candidates have given.

“I’m fortunate, I’ve got an MP who I speak to and irrespective of which party he belongs to, he will get my vote. Rather than being partisan, maybe retailers should look at their local candidates.”

 

It is so important that we as politicians engage with small businesses. You’ve got to be in favour of creating wealth, not just taxing it. It’s so important that we have a dynamic, entrepreneurial economy.

 

Labour’s offer to small business is fairness. The next Labour government will build an economy that works for the many small businesses not the giant few multi-nationals.

 

Businesses and small businesses are the cornerstone of our economy. It is outrageous that we have had a revaluation of business rates without reforming a Victorian system that benefits global internet retailers.