Enterprise Nation’s small business debate on March 2nd was an interesting event. Although the questions were given to the politicians beforehand – open questions would have been much more fun – and so they had time to prepare, some of the responses seemed ill-thought out.
Let’s have a look at what they political parties taking part (the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party – UKIP decided not to show up) are promising us, as small business owners:
All parties agree that the current setup is simply too expensive. The Conservatives are reviewing the arrangements and, from next month, the retail discount is being reduced by a further £500 a year. Labour promises to cut these rates by £1 billion, but this money is coming from not cutting Corporation Tax.
The LibDems are scrapping Business Rates and replacing them with a Land Value Tax, based on the value of the land rather than the building value. The Greens are agreeing with them.
A question about how female entrepreneurism is being limited by the cost of childcare raised some tensions. The question was aimed at getting a commitment to capping childcare costs and nobody would do this – market forces!
Labour’s commitment is to have all primary schools open from 8am to 6pm, thereby freeing up many mothers to be able to work “normal” business hours, with an additional 10 hours of free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds. The Lib Dems plan to extend the current 15 hours of free childcare, for 3 & 4 year olds, to two-year olds as well.
There seemed to be little real response to this, with Labour looking to encourage more interaction between industry and higher/further education to ensure the skills they want are being delivered. Apparently there is too many courses for what people want to learn, rather than what industry wants.
I spent too much time chuckling at the Greens’ comments, about the same apples being imported from The Netherlands and also being exported to The Netherlands, to note much on this bit – sorry!
Enterprise Investment Scheme
EIS and SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) were both heavily praised by all parties with nobody wanting to make any changes. The Conservatives commented about the level of investment available being capped by the EU and Labour want to encourage alternative business lending to provide real competition to the banks, thereby getting them to lend more.
To be honest, there was a lot of hot air flying about, with the expected cat fights on occasions, as they competed. I would have preferred much more open questioning, but I would not have wanted Emma’s job in managing this and controlling the tone.
What do you want from the next government?