What has the coalition government done for small businesses?

Lucie Mitchell
Contributing Editor
Sift Media
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The coalition's government's mid-term review, a 48-page document in which the prime minister and his deputy reflect on what they have achieved over the past two and a half years, and what they plan to do for the rest of the term, recapped on some of the ways it intends to support small businesses over the next couple of years, including a cut in the small companies tax rate, an extension of the small business rate relief, and the creation of a Business Bank.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg said: "We are taking stock of the progress we have made in implementing the coalition agreement that we signed in May 2010. But we are also initiating a new set of reforms, building on those already underway, to secure our country’s future and help people realise their ambitions."
But what has the coalition actually done to help small businesses so far? Here, entrepreneurs offer their views.
Jon Norris, web editor at Crunch.co.uk and Freelanceadvisor.co.uk, said that the backing of the UK's technology sector was a wise move.
"These clusters of high-growth businesses in places like Shoreditch, Cambridge and Brighton offer high quality jobs, and will form a key part of the UK's modern economy - they should be supported wholeheartedly."
However, he added: "Meaningful action on tackling late payments to small businesses, preferably in the form of new legislation, is needed. The government should focus on getting the fundamentals right before implementing far-fetched new regulations like employee shareholder contracts."
Sarah Lafferty, director and co-founder of Round Earth Consulting, said: "Since I work in the emerging tech sector I am pleased to see the government increasing its support in this area, by promoting and investing - albeit lightly - in Tech City and other initiatives. I'm also very encouraged about the government’s commitment to making it easier for small tech businesses and open source companies to compete for government contracts, though there is much change needed to make this work in practice."
She added, however, that she is concerned by the Tory's threats to leave the EU. "This would be catastrophic for my business, much of which depends on EU revenue and free movement of labour."
Yet Simon Hill, MD and founder of Wazoku, remarked that the coalition has displayed a lack of joined-up thinking, when it comes to supporting small businesses.
"Funding is a fundamental issue for SMEs, yet the Small Business Bank launch saw George Osborne say SMEs should go to existing banks for funding, whilst Vince Cable said it would lend direct. For SMEs to access funding through banks is tantamount to impossible in the first few years, precisely the time they need the support. This conflicting thinking has characterised much of the coalition’s work with SMEs.
"It is pretty obvious that George Osborne and Vince Cable are fundamentally opposed on how best to support UK SMEs and this needs to be addressed in the second half of their time in office. I do believe there is great intent on the part of the coalition but innovation and entrepreneurship are so important to the future growth and development of the UK economy that a more clear and focused approach is essential."
Mark Pearson, chairman and founder of MyVoucherCodes, remarked that the coalition must now focus on getting the big banks to lend to small and startup businesses.
"It is all well and good for banks to say that they are open for business but the UK's continuing dismal bottom line would say otherwise. Cameron's soundbites, such as 'the next Facebook should come from the UK', resonates with all of us startups, but we need the stable economic platform on which to build such a company."
Commenting in BusinessZone.co.uk’s sister site, UK Business Forums, member AnneLou said: "Small businesses are the backbone of this country - they contribute more per pound of turnover into country coffers - but do we get any thanks for that? Nah - just more legislation, more binds to tie us down and daily threats of fines or convictions for breaking rules or laws governing most day-to-day business activities.
"So far, in two and a half years, this government has failed to come up with any genuine plan that they actually stick to."
Meanwhile, John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said that while ministers have made important commitments around reducing regulatory burdens on business and creating a business bank, it is now time to deliver on these promises.
"These commitments have been welcomed by companies across the UK. In business, though, it’s not the commitments you make, but what you actually deliver on the ground. The focus must now shift to delivery if the coalition government is to earn the long-term trust and respect of businesses across the whole economy."
Do you think the coalition has been good or bad for small businesses? Take part in our poll to let us know.


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