#IBackSmallBusiness call for urgent action on housing and business rates

With Assembly candidate Caroline Russell, I have welcomed the Federation of Small Businesses’ London Manifesto today.

The FSB is asking the next Mayor to listen to the concerns of small businesses on housing, business rents and rates, transport charging reform and ultra-fast broadband.

I am proud to say that #IBackSmallBusiness, and proud that I was praised by the FSB as the most sympathetic candidate to the needs of small enterprise in London when I last stood for Mayor in 2008.

Small and medium-sized businesses are London’s economic engine, generating more jobs and keeping more of their profits circulating in the local economy. Smaller firms already provide half Londoners’ jobs but small business owners rightly complain that high housing costs make it much harder for them to recruit and retain staff.

For all the reasons the FSB highlights, housing is my top priority too. The current failure to provide new, truly affordable homes is driving people out of their homes and out of our city. If people can’t find decent places to live near where they work, it stands to reason that businesses will suffer. We welcome the FSB’s call for affordable housing based on earnings rather than property market values. We want to set up a Living Rent Commission to explore whether controls could bring rents more in line with local average incomes.

But we shouldn’t address the housing crisis at the expense of small businesses. At the moment, business rents are soaring or firms are losing their premises completely in the rush to squeeze every drop of profit out of land by building high-cost housing on it. That’s a senseless way of running a city.

Caroline Russell, a Councillor in Islington and Green candidate for a London-wide seat on the London Assembly, attended the launch event and spoke for the Greens there. She says:

“It’s scandalous that the smallest businesses are still being turned down for loans. At the very least, the banks in which the public purse still holds shares must do their bit to help London rely less on huge international firms and more on companies we build for ourselves.

“I support FSB London’s call for a full review of transport-charging schemes in London. The high cost of getting around is another factor that makes London cripplingly unaffordable for people on ordinary wages. And our city needs to be much more ambitious about its targets for ultra-fast broadband provision for all areas of the capital.”