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The small business policies of the main political parties

In the final stretch of the general election campaign – and steering clear of camps #Milifandom and #Cameronette – we’re taking an impartial snapshot of the small business policies of the main parties. To do this, we enlisted the help of business expert Philip Salter from think tank The Entrepreneurs Network, which works to bridge the gap and form a dialogue between small businesses and policy makers.

The current business landscape

Over the past few years, the landscape has seen policy improvements to incentivise fast-growing businesses in the UK. It is these small businesses that are beneficial to the economic growth of the nation as they are creating employment opportunities – at the start of 2014, 5.2 million small businesses accounted for 48 percent of UK private sector employment. According to Philip, the main concerns of small businesses are tax and business rates. But there are also generational issues, such access to digital skills, or regional, such as access to talent. Read more below about the small business policies of the main parties.

Conservatives

Keeping corporation tax at 20 percent

Over the course of its time in government, the Conservative Party has lowered corporation tax, which has proved popular with larger businesses.

Growing the Start-Up Loans programme

The party has pledged to ‘treble the Start-Up Loans programme’ with the ambition that ‘75,000 entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to borrow money to set up their own businesses’.

Expand Help to Grow scheme

The party has pledged to improve support for start-up investment and roll out the Help to Grow scheme. This will address financial gaps for firms that need help with expansion, growth and hiring.

Expanding broadband coverage

The party wishes to ‘secure the delivery of superfast broadband in urban and rural areas to provide coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017’, with the hope that ‘ultrafast broadband should be available to nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable’.

Labour

Cutting and freezing business rates

In order to pay for cuts to business rates for smaller businesses, the party is proposing that it will raise corporation tax up to 21 percent – a noticeable, but not huge, rise. The party proposes that it ‘will cut, and then freeze business rates for over 1.5 million smaller business properties’.

Creation of the Business Investment Bank

The British Investment Bank would work with the mission to help businesses grow and to create wealth and jobs. In addition, it would also serve as a resource for small and medium-sized businesses to access finances, as well as support a group of regional banks.

Broadband expansion

Like the Conservative Party, Labour is also focusing on improving broadband access. It is looking to ensure that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high-speed broadband over the next five years. The party aims to maximise private sector investment and deliver the mobile infrastructure needed to extend coverage and reduce ‘not spots’, including in areas of market failure.

Improving digital skills

This pledge involves providing support to community-based campaigns to reduce the number of people who are unable to use the internet. The pledge also promises to help those looking to make the most of digital technology.

Liberal Democrats

Broadband

Like the other two major parties, the Lib Dems are also looking to complete the rollout of high-speed broadband. They wish to reach almost every household (99.9 percent) in the UK, as well as small businesses in both rural and urban areas.

Improving skills

The party has pledged to focus on improving the skills of the nation’s current workforce, and encouraging the next generation to learn the skills that will be useful to the economy in the future. The two focuses are:

  • Promote the take-up of STEM subjects in schools, retaining coding on the National Curriculum and encouraging entrepreneurship at all levels. Maintain and develop the award-winning Government Digital Service, and the principle of Digital by Default in public services, pressing ahead with plans to extend this to local government.
  • Develop cutting-edge digital skills courses for young people and the unemployed, working with private sector employers, along with education and training providers.

Technology networks

The Lib Dems are hoping to support existing businesses that focus on technology. They pledge to build on the success of existing entrepreneurial hubs such as Tech City, Tech North and the Cambridge Cluster by creating a UK-wide network that acts as an incubator for technology companies.

Monitoring impact of technology

The focus on technology continues with this pledge, but this time with a focus on improving the accountability and impact of government activity using tech. They want to ‘ensure the technology implications of government activity are properly considered by introducing technology impact assessments into the policy design process’.

We’ve compiled a list of existing government programmes across various regions that can help you with different areas of your business.



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