Dissatisfaction with Labour Government mounting among small businesses - survey

A MYOB Government Performance Snapshot shows more SMEs are dissatisfied with Labour's performance after the August COVID-19 outbreak, compared to July 2020.
A MYOB Government Performance Snapshot shows more SMEs are dissatisfied with Labour's performance after the August COVID-19 outbreak, compared to July 2020. Photo credit: GettyImages.

Dissatisfaction with the Labour Government is mounting among small business owners, a new survey has found.

Almost half (46 percent) of those surveyed thought the National Party had a better understanding of their business needs, followed by the Labour Party at 30 percent and ACT at 23 percent.

It comes as the COVID-19 Delta outbreak, which plunged the country into level 4 lockdown on August 18 has squeezed business cash flows - and increased costs.

According to a Government Support Snapshot by online business software platform MYOB, support for Labour is dwindling in SME voters.

The online survey of 778 SME owners and decision-makers was conducted in July 2021, and from August 27 to September 10, 2021.

It found 45 percent were dissatisfied with the Labour Government's overall performance since the October 2020 election. It's an 18 percentage point jump from July 2020, when MYOB's General Election snapshot showed nearly a quarter (23 percent) were dissatisfied.

More than one third (37 percent) said they were satisfied with the level of support provided to businesses. But slightly more (41 percent) were dissatisfied.

Jo Tozer, head of customer service at MYOB, said at a time when many SMEs were grappling with alert level restrictions, results show SME businesses feel they "aren't seeing enough support" from the Government.

Supply chain disruptions, difficulties bringing in seasonal workers and dealing with border closures are continuing issues for businesses despite the Government financial support package, Tozer said.

More than a third (35 percent) of SMEs believe the political party they voted for hadn't performed to their expectations. Of these, 37 percent said the National Party would now be their new preferred party. Almost a quarter (23 percent) said they would vote for the ACT Party. A further quarter were undecided.

"Last year, our insights showed Labour as the favourite among the SMEs we surveyed and that was the first time in our polling that Labour had come out on top with small business," Tozer said.

Referring to this year as a "tough slog" for businesses, Tozer said re-introduction of financial support measures for SMEs may not be enough to win their vote.

"There are a number of bigger challenges at play that are still on the mind of local business operators - like housing, skills shortages, wage inflation and consumer confidence," Tozer said.

Jacinda Ardern remained the preferred Prime Minister among 40 percent of SME businesses surveyed.  

At 17 percent, ACT leader David Seymour came in second most preferred, pipping National Leader Judith Collins at 16 percent.

"Support for the ACT Party and David Seymour has grown a lot in 2021 - particularly considering just 9 percent of SMEs told us they had voted for ACT in the 2020 General Election," Tozer added.

Among the actions SMEs said they'd like to see from the Government are:

  • Tax incentives/rebates for those working exclusively for local suppliers.
  • Taking a harder line with banks on small business lending.
  • Opening of borders to increase customers.
  • Free training and courses for upskilling.
  • Opening borders to more countries to fill job vacancies. 

"From wanting Government support to work with local suppliers and improving access to funding, to providing certainty around opening the borders now the vaccine roll-out has ramped up, it's evident that SMEs are looking for greater support to adapt and plan in line with the key challenges we are seeing in the current economy," Tozer said.

Under alert level 3, which came into effect for Auckland on September 21, (the rest of the country moved to alert level 2 on September 7), businesses can open for contactless click and collect and takeaway services. But about 50 percent of businesses will be able to operate at about half pace," Auckland Business Chamber CEO Mike Barnett told Newshub - under the 80 to 90 percent of economic activity Finance Minister Grant Robertson said was possible.

Now in its third round, the COVID-19 Wage subsidy is available to help businesses experiencing 40 percent revenue loss pay staff. The Resurgence Support Payment, Small Business Cash flow schemeLeave Support Scheme and Short-term Absence Payment are also available.