In a break with her stolid reputation, the Prime Minister opted to throw a surprise party outside 10 Downing Street yesterday. The UK, she announced, will have a general election in June.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll notice the move isn’t as risky as it seems. With a 21% lead over a seemingly adrift Labour Party, the Tories have a formidable political beachhead. This support is equal to the political power enjoyed during Thatcher’s heydey.
Seat projection on latest polls:
Con 400 +69
Lab 162 -70
LD 10 +2
Green 2 +1
UKIP 0 -1
SNP 54 -2
PC 4 +1
Con Majority 150
— Politico Daily (@Politico_Daily) April 18, 2017
Theresa May has a predatory gleam in her eyes for good reason, then: a bumper election win would be the mandate her government requires to seize control of Brexit negotiations, once and for all.
But EU theatrics aside, what’s on offer for the BusinessZone audience? Of course, it hasn’t been that long since the last general election. So it’s not hard to imagine that the business promises made in 2015 still hold water.
So how about a refresher? Which of the main parties have the most to offer the UK's business owners and startups? Well, that's up to you decide!
- The Conservatives promised to triple the number of businesses backed under the Startup Loans scheme from 25,000 to 75,000. This was with the aim of lending at least £300m in total. They didn't quite hit this 75000 target, making it to 46,400 businesses funded. This is forgivable, though, considering the unnaturally shortened lifespan of this parliament. They did, however, manage to hit the £300m total
- The Tories pledged to review business rates, to ease the burden on small businesses. This promise has not gone well, for instance, startups in Hackney, which is home to London's Tech City, face average business rates rise of 46%. The Chancellor had announced a £300m fund for local councils to offer discretionary relief for hard-hit cases. But as The Telegraph reports, businesses had to start paying their new, higher rates before knowing whether they qualify for relief
- Establishing a new Small Business Conciliation service to mediate in disputes, especially over late payment. This was announced as part of the Enterprise Act 2016, but it's yet to materialise.
- A target to cut red tape by £10bn in the next parliament. Again, this was formally legislated in the Enterprise Act but there hasn't been enough time for it to manifest
The opposition haven't had the chance to fulfill (or break) their promises. But all of the main parties have made some precise guarantees of what small business policy would be under their governance.
- Corbyn recently stated a Labour government would "declare war on late payment". Labour would name and shame large corporates that provide unfavourable payment terms to small businesses. Any company bidding for public sector contracts will be bound to pay its suppliers within 30 days
- The creation of new regional investment banks to help local businesses access finance
- In regards to Making Tax Digital, Labour would scrap quarterly reporting for small businesses with a turnover of less than £83,000
- Labour has promised to put small businesses first in line for tax cuts. The party has also promised, in very non-specific terms, to increase support for scale-ups
- The Lib Dems promised to slash red tape. Specific examples include: transferring responsibility for administering the Working Families Tax Credit to the Department of Social Security, saving employers £105m per year; and repealing Section 8 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1996, which provides that employers are guilty of a strict liability criminal offence if they employ someone who does not have permission to work in the UK
- Set up a single inspectorate for small businesses to replace existing structures
- Cut business rates on small businesses by introducing a Business Rates Allowance, similar to personal tax allowances. There would also be further reform of business rates in the medium term
- Introduce tough legislation to control monopolies and cartels with a presumption against a high concentration of ownership
- Late payments to small business is a particular area of focus for UKIP
- The party promised to cut business rates by 20% for companies having premises with a total Rateable Value of less than £50,000
- Support a credit insurance scheme to improve the financial security of small businesses
- Make it easier for small and medium-size businesses to tender for public service contracts
- Push for 30 minutes free parking in every high street and shopping parade
- Make it easier for small businesses to employ people and contribute towards paying the living wage by using receipts from a wealth tax to reduce employers’ National Insurance in the to 8%
- Improve the competitive position of small firms, maintaining corporation tax for small firms at 20% while raising that for larger firms to 30%
- Increase access to finance by investing £2bn in a network of community banks, mutually owned and serving the local area or particular groups
- Encourage greater diversity among entrepreneurs, including young people, women, ex-service people, the previously unemployed, people who are disabled and older people
- A scale-up programme for Scottish startups. The party has promised to streamline the advice available to businesses to ensure resources are effectively deployed to support startup and scale-up ventures
- The SNP plans to expand the Small Business Bonus, thereby increase the number of small businesses that pay no rates
- Extend payment of the Living Wage
Francois is the deputy editor of BusinessZone and UK Business Forums.