This year, small businesses have often been on the frontline of the local Covid community response. Some provided free meals to key workers, while others gave free accommodation to NHS employees isolating to protect their loved ones. Even when facing some of the most difficult and challenging times, business owners have been looking out for their communities every step of the way. It’s important that we celebrate our small businesses and I am very excited to be doing this with SME4Labour and the Labour Excellence Awards.

As a business owner myself, I know first-hand just how difficult this time has been for small businesses. The support from the government was an initial crisis package – but the scheme never went far enough to truly protect businesses from the economic fallout of the pandemic, of which we are only just beginning to see the true extent. Many small businesses have closed their doors for the last time, and the hospitality industry has been truly decimated. Restaurants that have been in families for generations have had to close down, leaving the future of the staff and owners in a precarious state. I run restaurants in the centre of London, and due to the lack of tourists the footfall has decreased dramatically. Many businesses that rely on that trade have simply been unable to survive.

As of 2019, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) made up 99.3% of all private sector businesses in the UK, employing over 16.6 million people with an estimated combined annual turnover of £2.2tn accounted for 47% of private sector turnover. I am incredibly concerned for those who work within this industry, and what the future holds for small businesses across the country. There is a clear need for greater government support for those SMEs that feel left behind – so now whilst facing such economic uncertainty, Labour’s relationship with SMEs is more important than ever before.

Through SME4Labour, we want to provide a forum where small businesses can work in partnership with the Labour Party and continue to inform our economic policies. Having a space where businesses can speak directly with our MPs to face these uncertain times together is vital for the recovery of the business sector. The Labour Excellence Awards will bring together the brightest and best of the Labour Party – from politicians to activists and Constituency Labour Parties who have been making a difference across their communities. We will celebrate their contributions and efforts alongside the SME4Labour gala dinner.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the nominations for the Labour Excellence Awards, hosted by SME4Labour, are now open. Shortlisted finalists will be invited to an awards ceremony in central London, regulations permitting, where the UK’s best small and medium business enterprises will be celebrated by the best and brightest in Westminster. The awards will be held in December this year, subject to government guidelines and we are already very pleased to have Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner attending the ceremony.

Held at the River Bank Park Plaza hotel in Lambeth, the awards are attended by over 450 guests. This includes over 100 Labour MPs and peers, including several members of the shadow cabinet. Attendees will be joined by assembly members, mayors, local councillors and other members of the Labour family, alongside trade union leaders and distinguished figures from the business community. Please submit your nominations to [email protected] and/or [email protected]or via the live link.