LABOUR has pledged to champion the town’s small businesses and revitalise high streets if it forms the next Government after this Thursday’s election.

The shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, yesterday set out the party’s plans for the sector as she unveiled Labour’s small business manifesto during a visit to Cherry Moon comic book cafe in Bolton town centre.

At the heart of the plan is the creation of a new Business Development Agency (BDA) to provide a “one-stop-shop” for business support.

This will help businesses access advice, finance and large scale Government contracts, Labour says, with specialist business advisors operating out of larger Post Bank branches.

Ms Long-Bailey said: “Small businesses are vital to a thriving economy. Labour wants business support and finance to be available for entrepreneurs from the moment the seed of an idea is planted.

“Labour’s Business Development Agency, will create thriving businesses within our communities, bringing life back to local economies.

“The Agency is part of 20 pledges we are making because Labour is on the side of small business. It’s time for real change.”

Among the other key pledges are promises to reform business rates, stamp out late payments, and invest billions nationally to upgrade transport infrastructure.

Ms Long-Bailey also faced questions from Bolton business owners about how Labour would protect their businesses from crime, during a round-table discussion at the launch. One post office owner raised the scourge of shoplifting and the threat posed by the black market ­— particularly around revenues from cigarettes which he said had fallen by 75 per cent at his shop as a result of rogue traders.

They also asked how Labour proposed to better support self employed workers and what measures it would put in place to protect small businesses who do not have the financial clout to pay their staff the party’s proposed £10-an-hour “living wage”.

Ms Long-Bailey said Labour would ensure that funding and support was readily available to ensure SMEs were in a position to securely pay higher wages, adding that criminals and fraudulent traders would be clamped down on by strengthening the resources of police and agencies.