Mark Prisk is the Shadow Minister for Business & Enterprise. Over the last week, Mark has been busy meeting with business groups and small shop owners. Below he reviews his week and talks about the package of measures Conservatives announced to help small businesses survive.
On Monday, at our Small Business Survival Summit the message from business was very clear. Whilst the impact differs between business sectors, the outlook is severe and the threat imminent. Collapsing confidence, rising costs and shrinking credit are squeezing the life out businesses, especially in the south east. Where the boom was the greatest, so the bust may prove to be the worst.
That evening, I met Asian businesses, this time in East Ham. It was lashing with rain outside but the turnout was strong. Again, the message was loud and clear: businesses are feeling the pain and need elbow room to survive these difficult times.
This is why Conservatives this week, launched a package of measures to specifically give small businesses immediate help. They include:
Cutting small company taxes
We are committed to cutting small company corporation taxes from 22p to 20p, which is costing small companies an extra £370 million this year. Labour are wrong to increase their taxes, especially at this time.
Helping with cash flow
Second, Conservatives would allow small and medium-sized businesses, to defer their VAT bills, for up to 6 months. For a typical business with a VAT bill of £350,000, this could involve up to £90,000, the difference between survival and failure. It would not be right for all firms, which is why we offer it as an option.
With unemployment increasing, we want to help people keep their jobs. This is why we would cut payroll taxes for the smallest employers, to help them save money and so keep jobs. It would mean that a local firm, with say four employees, and a wage bill of £150,000 would save £100 every month.
Paying up promptly
Many small firms are dependent on government departments, agencies and local authorities as customers. So at times like this it is even more important that they pay on time. Conservative councils like Brentwood and Castlepoint, have recently reduced the period in which they pay their contracts from 30 to just 20 days. We hope that other councils follow their lead.
Cutting business rates
Helping small businesses isn’t just about doing new things. It is about making them aware of what is already available. Right now, many small businesses, including small shops are eligible for Small Business Rate Relief.
That’s why on Tuesday morning, I went to Northcote Road in Battersea to launch a national campaign to encourage small shops owners to check if they are eligible and then apply for this relief. Businesses that are eligible could be up to £1,100 better off.
In Northcote Road I met Michael, the owner of the excellent Bolingbroke Book Shop. We spoke about how his rates have increased from £400 when he first started to over £8,000 today. Then I talked with Tony, who runs a café but has seen rising rents and rates hurt local businesses like his.
So to help people like Michael and Tony we have set up a simple and straightforward online facility for them to check and apply. To find out more please go to www.conservatives.com/smallshops .
Clearly there are broader policy issues which will help but these take time to implement. The ideas we have set out this week are intended to help here and now.