16 million small business voters are waiting to be noticed

Written by: Rachel Miller

Date: 23 May 2024

Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the UK in Downing Street

The Prime Minister has announced the date of the next General Election but will SMEs feature in party policies?

Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement of a General Election, the founder of Start Up Donut, one of the UK’s leading small business advice websites, Rory MccGwire, said:

"16 million voters work in small businesses in the UK.

"Yet small businesses and the self-employed feel completely taken for granted at election time. All the political parties talk about SMEs being ‘the engine of the economy’, but then focus their attention on keeping big business, the unions, and the taxpayer happy.

"The politicians trot out the usual lines about pro-growth, pro-business policies to stimulate the economy and encourage entrepreneurship, as if that is all that is needed.

Rory MccGwire, founder of the Start Up Donut

"None of the politicians seem to have a clue about what it is like to actually run a small business.

"As a small business owner, there is no minimum wage in your case. You are simply left with whatever cash is left that month, after paying all your costs. And there will be months when costs outweigh sales, so you actually pay in to the business.

"If you supply large businesses, you can expect to experience huge delays and frustration when it comes to getting paid for your work. Every year at Budget time, the government of the day beats its chest and growls about the scourge of late payment, then announces yet another consultation on how to fix it. Nothing actually changes. Late payment is allowed to carry on bankrupting small businesses year after year.

"The types of changes that would ease the burden on small businesses have been proposed many times before. For example:

  • Simplify the tax regime, so an SME does not need to hire an expensive tax adviser to work out what is owed. And have an HMRC helpline that can answer more questions, rather than telling you to go and seek advice from a tax adviser.
  • Re-introduce the Enterprise Allowance, to support start-ups in the tricky initial period before they have built up a customer base. Every year, thousands of businesses fail at this stage, just as they are getting going.
  • Stop the endless creation of business support initiatives that are terminated before most businesses even know that they exist. Politicians love announcing new things, which is why perfectly good initiatives are replaced over and over again. It adds up to a huge waste of money and effort.
  • Expand the scope of the Business Support Service, so that it can answer all of the most common questions from start-ups and small businesses, rather than simply signposting people to local organisations that are not able to provide much help either.

"None of this is rocket science. There have been more consultations than one can shake a stick at, all pointing out exactly the same problems year after year, decade after decade. What SMEs want is for the government to simply do what works and then stick to it."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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