Skip to content

It’s time to support UK Business

Published - 11th July 2024

Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

As Sir Keir Starmer accepts the keys for number 10, businesses up and down the UK will be hard at work, creating their wishlist of asks and actions that they most want to see from this new Labour government.

As part of its manifesto, Labour shared its commitment to kickstart economic growth across the UK. Music to our ears, but of course, now we wait to hear more detailed plans how the UK government will support UK business.

The fact is UK businesses need help. And we need it now. But, most importantly, we need understanding – of the climate in which we operate and the challenges we face, in order for the support offered to make a real and sustainable difference.

As a Commissioner for the Business Commission West Midlands, I speak on behalf of business owners and leaders across the country. As CEO of Lioncroft Wholesale, I run an independent food and drink wholesale business, supplying 10,000 convenience retailers in the West Midlands with the products they need to stock their stores and serve their customers.

The challenges of the past five years have been immense – from the pandemic to Brexit, from the war in Ukraine to stock availability and labour shortage issues.

We have weathered storm after storm and while we have emerged with strength and resilience, we have some very clear asks of this new government in order for us to contribute meaningfully to the country’s economic growth.


Within our sector – wholesale and retail – there needs to be a tightening of rules to ensure our people and our businesses are protected.

Despite rising levels of violence committed against shop workers (which also extends into wholesale) and record incidents of shoplifting, there is currently no justice for those committing such crimes.

Crimes of this kind are not a priority for the police and we implore the new government to introduce stronger penalties to ensure there are clear deterrents for this type of crime which, last year, cost the retail sector more than £1.8bn and resulted in more than 8,800 reported injuries. Put simply, our people deserve better.


Everyone in business recognises the very real need to pay people fairly, but the cost implications of a rising minimum wage level are crippling, especially when teamed with escalating costs to do business, plus the need to continually innovate and invest in business to succeed.  

And of course, a rising wage doesn’t stop there – there are knock-on effects on pensions and National Insurance contributions… it’s a drip feed of rising costs and one that cannot be sustained.

Revitalise the high street

The government has already indicated that it wants to breathe new life in our high streets. As retail represents 5 per cent of the UK’s GDP, this is reassuring to hear.

However, the business rates systems needs an overhaul to address the huge gap between physical and online retailing to ensure both can exist alongside without financial penalty.


I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it. Businesses need to be encouraged to invest in growth, so could this new government be the one to introduce a range of incentives that rewards those looking to thrive rather than just survive?

This could be a more favourable tax regime or tax credits for those investing in research and development? How can businesses be encouraged to hire more workers, perhaps access to free or low-cost training programmes?

Can businesses be encouraged to invest in green energy solutions with grants and additional financial support?

While we are looking for the government to take action, the fact is, we must also take the time to examine our own back yards. While now is the time for help, is now also the time for us to make changes?

As business owners, we need to ask ourselves if we are as productive, effective and efficient as we could be? Are we bringing our A game, and if not, why not?

It may be contentious, but while working from home undoubtedly kept the wheels turning during the Covid years, the effect of empty offices on city and town centres has been nothing short of catastrophic, not least for the cafes, shops and food-to-go outlets used to serving workers in their hundreds.

With leading businesses reporting a link between remote working and lower levels of productivity, this is a genuine cause for concern.

The UK already trails behind France, Germany and the United States when it comes to productivity rates, and we cannot allow this gap to widen any further. Staff at Manchester United have been told to return to work as an audit revealed email traffic fell dramatically on a Friday when staff worked from home.

And it’s not just about productivity. Many businesses have reported a detrimental effect on company culture and creativity when teams are rarely in the same room. Some, such as ASOS, report that virtual meetings were ‘detrimental’ to company performance, while others have inferred that promotions and payrises may be affected by a lack of physical presence in the workplace.

Whether it’s to boost productivity or reconnect and revitalise disparate teams, for some a return to the office has delivered a surge of energy and increased levels of collaboration. And I do wonder if a return to workplaces will also benefit future recruitment?

I know we are not alone in sharing that recruitment has been increasingly difficult in recent years as potential employees have a set of demands that can be hard to meet, usually including hybrid or remote working.

For those who want a team to be together, inspiring each other and sparking ideas, conversation and solutions, this is a very real challenge.

As the new government is formed, ministers appointed and priorities set, let’s welcome this time of change and play our part in driving the change we want to see, boosting the nation’s productivity and contributing to the UK’s economic growth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *