Britain's do-good businesses expect election certainty to create opportunities

by Sarah Shearman | @shearmans | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 13 December 2019 16:20 GMT

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a Conservative Party event following the results of the general election in London, Britain, December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

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'Securing a large majority should allow the government to forge ahead on issues that affect the country's social enterprises,' said Kevin Armstrong, policy lead at UnLtd, a British charity

By Sarah Shearman

LONDON, Dec 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain's new government could provide "the opportunity of a generation" for the nation's ethical business sector by ending years of political and economic uncertainty that held it back, experts said on Friday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party triumphed in a landslide election victory on Thursday with a promise to get Brexit done after more than three years of deadlock.

Securing a large majority should allow the government to forge ahead on issues that affect the country's social enterprises, Kevin Armstrong, policy lead at UnLtd, a British charity, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

"There will be some good confidence the Conservatives will deliver on their key commitments to social entrepreneurs, such as the cutting of business rates for small businesses and the expansion of startup loans," he said.

Johnson, who led his party to the biggest election victory since Margaret Thatcher in 1987, said in his speech that he will work hard to secure the support of first-time Conservative voters, many of whom were in Labour heartland.

Helping communities that feel left behind could present the "opportunity of a generation" for social enterprises - which tackle problems like hunger and homelessness - said Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, a trade body.

"[Social enterprises] have a fundamental and integral role to play if [these communities] are going to be socially healed - the future has to be positive and optimistic," said Holbrook.

"We have survived and thrived over the last 10 years and they have been difficult, so whatever government, national politics, throws in our way, we are optimistic and we will make it work – because that's what we do," he added.

Britain's social enterprise sector – with more than 100,000 social enterprises contributing 60 billion pounds ($78 billion) to the economy - has been sidelined politically in recent years, particularly as a result of Brexit, experts have said.

The second poll of experts on the best countries for social entrepreneurs by the Thomson Reuters Foundation recently found Britain had slumped to 13th place among the world's 45 biggest economies from third slot three years ago.

Johnson's victory means that Britain's exit from the European Union on Jan. 31 is now a foregone conclusion, ending uncertainty which business leaders have said has been damaging.

Yet with many British social enterprises relying on European Union investment and grants, it is important that the new government replaces any funding lost as a result of Brexit, said Stephen Muers of social investment firm Big Society Capital.

"Social enterprises are crucial to both the UK economy and the communities they operate in," said Muers.

"We hope to work with the government and others to agree on an appropriate replacement for the European Investment Fund which has been a valuable source of capital for the sector."

(Reporting by Sarah Shearman @Shearmans. Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and slavery, property rights, social innovation, resilience and climate change. Visit to see more stories)

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