Entrepreneurs: they are the life blood of the economy, or so many politicians tell us. But which of the political parties really have their best interests at heart?
It’s not rocket science. If you want to know what party seems the most interested in entrepreneurs, Google the name of each party, alongside the word entrepreneur. And who see who has produced the most literature targeted at them.
Google, ‘Lib Dems manifesto entrepreneurs’ and in position one you get a document outlining their policies that are targeted at entrepreneurs.
The headline policy is a £100 a week start-up allowance available for 26 weeks for budding entrepreneurs. They also promise affordable capital for entrepreneurs and SMEs.
They are also pro-EU, of course, and want a second referendum – a policy that they see as relevant to entrepreneurs.
They say: “Prioritise start-ups, tech businesses and entrepreneurs in any Brexit negotiations, and seek ways to open up new, progressive markets elsewhere.”
They are also pro-immigration, and talk about “guaranteeing the rights of EU workers to live and work in Britain, allowing high-skilled workers into Britain with a minimum six-month visa.”
Intriguingly they are one of the few parties to overtly refer to what is quite possibly the single most important issue that is not being discussed by the big parties – namely how technology will affect the labour market. They say: “Respond to increasing automation by actively investing in labour markets which will continue to require high levels of human input in future.”
They also talk about expanding the activities of the British Business Bank, and having schools providing more advice on entrepreneurism.
Finally, they talk about investing in skills, education, training, but then they all do that. The real things that stands out about Lib Dems regarding entrepreneurs is not so much their policy – which, apart from their EU policy and £100 a week start-up allowance, is much the same as everyone else’s – it is the fact that they have actually produced a document specifically outlining their plans.
Take a look at the Tory manifesto and you find the follow references. “We will also treble our successful Start Up Loans programme during the next Parliament so that 75,000 entrepreneurs get the chance to borrow money to set up their own business. We will raise the target for SMEs’ share of central government procurement to one-third, strengthen the Prompt Payment Code and ensure that all major government suppliers sign up. We have already helped small businesses by increasing the Annual Investment Allowance, reducing the burden of employment law through our successful tribunal reforms and supporting 27,000 new business mentors. We will go further by establishing a new Small Business Conciliation service to mediate in disputes, especially over late payment.”
Their 81page manifesto has one more reference to entrepreneurs. It says: “We will reward entrepreneurship to support jobs, we cut Corporation Tax from 28 to 20 per cent over the course of the Parliament, reduced National Insurance bills and capped the rise in business rates. We have extended 100 per cent Small Business Rate Relief and are providing extra support for high street shops by increasing the business rates retail discount to £1,500. In the next Parliament, we want to maintain the most competitive business tax regime in the G20, and oppose Labour’s plans to increase Corporation Tax. We will conduct a major review into business rates by the end of 2015 to ensure that from 2017 they properly reflect the structure of our modern economy and provide clearer billing, better information sharing and a more efficient appeal systems”.
As for Labour, the word entrepreneur – or similar words such as ‘entrepreneurs’ appears three times in their manifesto. They say: “Our entrepreneurs and managers are being held back from growing their business. If you are increasingly asked to do more with less, then you are not alone.” So that wasn’t really about entrepreneurs, but at least they mentioned the word. Later on, the manifesto says: “Labour understands that the creation of wealth is a collective endeavour between workers, entrepreneurs, investors and government. Each contributes and each must share fairly in the rewards”. So that’s nice, it’s good that is understands this.
But it does have a whole section on self-employed workers. It says: “Self-employment can bring many benefits, freedoms and flexibilities to people – and is a vital and often entrepreneurial sector of our economy. But there is also mounting evidence that workers are being forced into self-employment by unscrupulous employers”. It then went on to talk about reforming the gig economy.
It should be pointed out that Labour proposes a lower rate of corporation tax for smaller firms, and reject the Tory idea of quarterly tax reporting for businesses turning over less than £85,000.
Meanwhile, look up the Green Party Manifesto and the word entrepreneur is missing. But then Rachel Collinson, spokesperson for energy and industrial strategy for the Green Party was quoted in IPSE as saying that the “Green Party would bring in a pilot project of something called People's Venture Capital. This would replace the individual tax allowance, working tax credit, child tax credit, child benefit, tax credits, parental leave, statutory sick pay and universal credit (except housing and disability payments). Instead, you would get a monthly payment from the government direct into your bank account. No questions asked, no hoops to jump through, no strings attached. This is designed to cushion you against hard times, or give you a breather while you invest time in creating a new product or service.”
There is another word for this people’s venture capital – universal basic income – but it is interesting that they have worded it that way. Critics of the idea of universal income fear it will create an entitlement culture, but there is a case to be made for saying it will lead to more entrepreneurism.
The Green Party also wants to see a four day a week and end zero hour contracts – something Labour is keen to do, as well.
But if you really want to champion the cause of entrepreneurs, consider instead, The NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards. You can’t vote, but entrants can apply here: www.greatbritishentrepreneurawards.com