By Ivan McKeever, CEO SwitchMyBusiness.com
It is a political cliché that if every one of Britain’s 5.2 million small and micro firms were each helped to create one job, we would wipe out our unemployment problem. But what do those parties seeking our votes offer beyond tempting rhetoric at election time?
A survey for SwitchMyBusiness.com, an energy compare and switch service for small businesses, revealed 93 per cent of small business owners want drastic change from the next Government.
And 40 per cent of small businesses don’t believe David Cameron understands their needs or the pressures they are under from cash flow problems to late payments, or rising energy bills.
From the poll, Labour was voted the most understanding political party, yet 38 per cent still don’t believe Miliband truly understands what businesses want and need either. The main motivations for small businesses revealed by the survey were:
- 34 per cent of business owners want a reduction in business rates
- 30 per cent want an increase in funding and grants
- 27 per cent support higher tax free allowances for small businesses
- 25 per cent want harsher penalties for businesses that pay them late
Now that all politicians have shown their hands, how do the party manifestos measure up to these key challenges facing small businesses?
A reduction in business rates:
Conservatives – A review into business rates to provide a more efficient appeal system.
Labour – Cut, and then freeze business rates for over 1.5m smaller business properties, instead of cutting Corporation Tax again for the largest firms.
Liberal Democrats – Complete the review of Business Rates. Committed to replacing Business Rates in the longer term by Land Value Tax.
UKIP – Cut in business rates for small businesses.
SNP – A package of business rates relief worth an estimated £594m for 2014-15 and £618m for 2015-16.
Plaid Cymru – Zero business rates for over 70,000 smaller Welsh companies.
More funding and grants:
Conservatives – Treble Start Up Loans programme to enable 75,000 entrepreneurs to borrow to set up in business.
Labour – Establish a British Investment Bank. Make Work Pay contracts give tax rebates to businesses who pay the Living Wage.
Liberal Democrats – Support fast-growing businesses that could create a million jobs over 20 years.
Greens – Invest £2bn in a network of Community Banks.
SNP – A Scottish Business Development Bank. Expand the Social Entrepreneurs Fund to encourage community social enterprises.
Plaid Cymru – Welsh Development Bank to ensure adequate credit lines. Funding to support businesses in West and North West Wales to recruit and use the Welsh language.
Higher tax free allowances:
Conservatives – Employment Allowance which frees businesses from the first £2,000 of employers’ NICs.
UKIP – Extend the right of appeal for micro businesses against HMRC action.
Greens – Use receipts from a wealth tax to reduce employers’ NI contributions to eight per cent.
SNP – Continue Small Business Programme and back reduced Employers’ NI contributions to support job creation.
Harsher penalties for businesses that pay late:
Conservatives – New Small Business Conciliation service to mediate in disputes over late payment.
Labour – Address rising costs for small businesses and strengthen rules on late payment.
UKIP – Fines for large companies if HM Revenue and Customs find evidence of repeated late payments to small businesses.
Greens – Enforce legislation that small firms are paid on time.
SNP – Press the UK Government to introduce effective legal protections to ensure small businesses are paid on time.
Government help with utility bills:
Conservatives – Affordable energy secured by expansion in nuclear and gas; backing good-value green energy; and push for more investment in UK energy sources.
Labour – Freeze energy bills until 2017, and give the regulator the power to cut bills. Reform the energy market so that it delivers fairer prices.
Liberal Democrats – Force energy companies to allow customers to switch to a cheaper supplier in 24 hours, national rollout of smart electricity and gas meters, help to form new energy cooperatives to benefit from group discounts.
UKIP – Abolish green taxes and levies and withdraw from the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme. Stop energy companies charging extra for customers who use pre-payment meters, who do not pay by direct debit, or who require paper billing.
Greens – Renewables to supply all the energy. Seek to cut demand by one third by 2020, one half by 2030 and two thirds by 2050.
SNP – Energy Company Obligation to be funded through general taxation and not as a levy on energy bills. Support new powers to ensure energy companies pass on the benefits of lower prices.
Plaid Cymru – Support Welsh businesses to use energy and natural resources efficiently and community bulk purchasing to lower bills.
With less than two weeks before the next election, the outcome is on a knife-edge. Speculation and polls suggest a possible hung parliament. But while we wait for the country to decide the fate of the main political parties and the future of the UK, at least for now it seems the messages from small businesses are resonating with leading politicians.
Small businesses however, will be expecting the promises made in manifestos, to be translated into swift action, so let’s hope the politicians live up to their bold words.