Unsurprisingly, the election campaigns of the major parties have centred on their plans for the health service, future relations with the EU, the NHS… and the economy. And with the election fast approaching, all polls suggest that it will be Conservative or Labour in charge after voting closes (albeit with a little help from whatever political ally they choose).
So what promises have they made to businesses in their manifestos?
The Labour Party
Labour has said that it recognises that “businesses, both large and small, are vital to the future success of our country,” and face “significant challenges.”
Their manifesto states: “We will back our entrepreneurs and businesses.”
Labour promise to:
Give a tax rebate to companies that commit to becoming Living Wage Employers in the first year of the next Parliament. They’ll also require companies to reveal whether they pay the Living Wage to their employees.
Tackle business costs by maintaining the corporation tax rate, and first cutting then freezing business rates and energy bills rates for more than 1.5 million small business properties.
Establish a British Investment Bank which will “lend money to small and medium sized businesses and support a network of regional banks.”
Establish an independent National Infrastructure Commission to plan for “long-term infrastructure needs”.
Tackle skill shortages by creating thousands of new apprenticeships and a new “gold standard vocational route.” They’ll also ensure that English and Maths are studied to age 18.
Support access to international markets “by returning Britain to a leadership role in a reformed European Union.”
The Conservative Party
The Conservative Party launched a specialised Small Business Manifesto, with the tagline: ‘Backing the businesses that create jobs.’ “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the Conservatives are behind them 100%.”
The Conservatives promise to:
Review and simplify business rates, cutting the main rate of corporation tax to 20 pence for small companies and removing complicated tax reliefs.
“Urgently review” the disadvantages faced by those self-employed (including access to maternity pay, pensions and mortgages).
Treble the number of start-up loans awarded within the next parliament and reduce business red tape, particularly the paperwork necessary to set up a new business.
Raise the target for SME’s share of central government procurement to one third.
Establish a new Small Business Conciliation service to mediate in disputes.
Retain Employment Allowance until 2020 “so that a third of employers pay no job tax,” and introduce a “significantly higher permanent level” for the Annual Investment Allowance.
Create 3,000 new apprenticeships over the next five years
To support rural business and ensure “near universal” superfast broadband by 2019, with a target for 95% of the UK to have superfast broadband availability by the end of 2017.
It remains to be seen which party will get the chance to put these promises into practice – and if they will deliver. Particularly if they’re forced to share the seat of power with a party that has very different ideas about the future of UK business…
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