The 2015 election manifestos - A small business wish list
What do small businesses want to see in the 2015 election manifestos? Better support, a business rates review and more funding, according a survey conducted by BusinessesForSale.com.
A collection of small business owners were asked what they thought would most benefit their business.
Better support was considered a priority for 50% of the small businesses surveyed, while 37% mentioned a review of business rates and 18% wanted more funding options for SMEs.
Close behind was an appraisal of the digital EU VAT laws (particularly pertaining to micro business), the need for a specific small business representative within government and help with marketing.
’I would like to see more support for small businesses, not necessarily in terms of start-up but in growth (years 3-5), in particular for online businesses like mine,’ Francesca Kemp, owner of homewares business Crafty Revolution, told us. ’From web-design to attracting more customers to an online shop, it would be helpful knowledge to keep an online business growing through a difficult market.’
Clair Letton, owner of Wigwam Toys in Brighton, also claimed the lack of support and funding was a major issue for small businesses:
’In order for the economy to expand there needs to be support for those willing to put in the hours and hours of sheer hard work that goes along with running your own business. I understand the banks have reacted to previous over generous lending by tightening the lending criteria, but it does really squeeze many people out.’
’Radical’ rates review
The Treasury recently announced a ‘radical’ review of the business rates system, which falls in line with criticism of the current structure by many small businesses. Findings of the review are anticipated to be in time for the 2016 Budget.
Angela Connor from The Creative Sanctuary, a knitting and sewing boutique, regarded a lowering of business rates as a directive that would benefit her business the most. She also suggested an alteration in how the business rates were calculated:
’Having business rates based on profits rather than what the building or area is worth.’
Ms Connor also remarked on how difficult it is to beat online retailers with such large overheads: ’I think more businesses would survive and grow to employ local people if this were possible.’
’Our main struggle is with business rates,’ reiterates Emma Gray, owner of gift emporium Bird Cage. ’They are extremely … and as a start-up business it’s the one cost that serves us little and is the most crippling financially. There must be a fairer way of managing the rates for all businesses but with a particular emphasis on small start-up businesses.’
The change in EU VAT regulation for digital sales has been a big talking point during the last six months amongst small businesses, particularly in relation to micro and VAT MOSS. Many of the issues were due to the added complication of calculating the VAT through the location of the buyer, rather than the seller.
This new system is viewed as too strenuous and time-consuming for small business, even leading some ceasing to trade in the EU market. Many business owners also took to Twitter to vent their frustration, using the hashtag ‘#VATMESS.’
’It is chaos with the VAT MOSS registration, and this really is hampering a lot of small business and small traders,’ says Louise West, who owns her own jewellery business, ’My accountant has not even been able to clarify the situation with HMRC and if they can’t keep up with the legislation, what chance has any sole trader got?
’While I appreciate it is EU legislation, it is something that I would like to see clarified, and personally I will not go down the route of selling online and have to comply with this as I cannot cope with the extra accounting and 3 monthly submission of accounts to comply.’
Katie Ellis, owner of independent saw manufacturer Thomas Flinn & Co., also mentioned some rather more personal issues she had as a small business in the manufacturing industry. Based in Sheffield, hers is the last remaining traditional saw manufacturer in the UK with brands dating back to the 18th century.
The main obstacle she refers to is an element of reluctance towards funding smaller businesses like hers within the sector. ’There are organisations such as MAS (Manufacturing Advisory Service) who offer funding support to manufacturing companies.
’However, they generally want to fund much larger companies than us and so we get turned down for any funding which would help us buy new machinery/technology for us to be able to continue our traditional products more easily and even try and grow our business more,’ she said.
Ms Ellis reiterated that the encouragement of manufacturing in the UK should be promoted more. ’We are a very small business and we ship to over 40 countries a year with over 30% of our goods being sold directly in the USA which is something Britain needs to encourage as the quality of products made in our nation is better than imported goods from the Far East.’ Rep for small business
The survey also saw the call for a small business representative to bridge the gap between government and small business.
Nicky Pasquier, owner of office support services business, Virtuoso Assistant, said that she thought a ‘Small Business Tsar’ could lead to regular meetings between members of the small business community and someone with direct influence in government. This might, in turn, enable ’problems [to] be discussed, addressed and resolved as soon as possible.’
Not-for-profit organisation Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) recently launched its own manifesto. Their main points cover what the next Government should do to: deliver a sustained economic recovery; rebalance the economy; create high-quality jobs and full employment; make all the markets work better; and lower the costs of doing business.
The General Election will take place on Thursday 7 May 2015.
By Rose Hill, online journalist for BusinessesForSale.com, the market-leading directory of business opportunities from Dynamis. Rose writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including PropertySales.com and FranchiseSales.com.