Professor of Enterprise and Director of the Leeds Enterprise Centre
at the University of Leeds.

Is the new coalition government going to be good for small business?

June 1st, 2010

With all the talk of hung parliaments, national interest and stable government it is easy to forget that the ‘enterprise show’ must go on! Small businesses provide nearly 60% of private sector jobs and over 50% of UK turnover. Over half a million people start their own business each year. We are clearly an enterprising nation. So, what might the new Conservative – Lib Dem coalition mean for small businesses and entrepreneurship?

If we had to use one word to describe each party’s approach to enterprise what would it be?

  • Conservative = the Markets. Tends towards supporting the City, reducing the national deficit quickly, reducing regulation for businesses and reducing NI and tax. Going greener.
  • Lib Dem = the Individual. Tends towards local accountability, splitting banks and creating a Post Bank, reducing the national deficit, reducing regulation for businesses, supporting social enterprise and reversing NI increase. Gone green.

But, what do small businesses and entrepreneurs want?

Simply, anything that will free them to be more enterprising and create jobs. That means reduced regulation and bureaucracy, access to finance and fairer taxation. As well as, wider recognition of the role they have in innovating and creating the jobs and wealth that fund public services.

With George Osborne as Chancellor and Vince Cable in the Treasury with responsibility for business and banks, what are my ‘top ten’ predictions?

  1. Banks: Legislation to split investment from retail banking. New bank levy. Formation of Post Bank delivered through the Post Office network;
  2. Business rates: Automatic business rates relief for small businesses;
  3. Business support: Reduced role for Regional Development Agencies. Business mentor networks;
  4. Economy: Attempts to rapidly reduce national debt in order to increase financial stability;
  5. Finance: Increased access to funds from state-owned banks and government schemes;
  6. Green: New low-carbon schemes for small businesses;
  7. Public procurement: Increase access to contracts for SMEs;
  8. Red tape: Reduced regulation and bureaucracy;
  9. Tax: Reduced NI and simplification of Corporation Tax. Review of IR35;
  10. Training and higher education: Increased apprenticeships and work-based training. Increased university enterprise and collaboration with industry.

So, with George Osborne focusing on macro-economic and market issues and Vince Cable supporting businesses we can expect enterprise to matter. With politicians calling for responsibility, compromise and stability there is no doubt in my mind that, given the right environment, small businesses and entrepreneurs can deliver more than their fair share of new jobs and wealth generation.

Dr Nigel Lockett

Director of Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management
www.bradford.ac.uk/ceim
www.nigellockett.com

STOP PRESS

I have just reviewed the ‘coalition agreement’ to see how my ‘top ten’ fared. Still in the charts are:

  1. Banks: New bank levy [Yes] and legislation to split investment from retail banking [Almost - independent commission to investigate];
  2. Business rates: Automatic business rates relief for small businesses [Partly – cancelling some backdated demands];
  3. Economy: Attempts to rapidly reduce national debt in order to increase financial stability [Yes – significantly accelerated reduction. £6 billion in 2010-11];
  4. Finance: Increased access to funds from state-owned banks and government schemes [Yes – to viable SMEs. Major loan guarantee scheme and using nationalised banks];
  5. Green: New low-carbon schemes for small businesses [Partly – creation of green investment bank];
  6. Tax: Reduced NI [Yes];
  7. Training and higher education: Increased apprenticeships and work-based training [Yes – work programmes].

Out of the charts [well at least no news yet] are:

  1. Banks: Formation of Post Bank delivered through the Post Office network;
  2. Business support:  Reduced role for Regional Development Agencies. Business mentor networks;
  3. Public procurement: Increase access to contracts;
  4. Tax: Simplification of Corporation Tax. Review of IR35;
  5. Training and higher education: Increased university enterprise and collaboration with industry.

Now we just have to wait for the emergency budget in 50 days …

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