Sunday, 17 May 2009

Small Businesses Squeezed

Laura Sandys press release

Would I set up a Small Business Again?

I founded a small company in the early 90s. It was fun to run. We had great staff. We had a strong team which provided our customers with a quality service that delivered success. Then in 2000, I sold the firm. Was it for a quieter life? Hardly that, as I left business to enter politics. But, I look back on that time with tremendous satisfaction and I have every sympathy and enormous admiration for the owners and staff of the small and medium enterprises that make up around 99% of all British companies.

Closer to home, I have had a lot of conversations recently with Thanet businesses and I am hearing a lamentable story from most of them. Of course, trading is difficult; costs are rising and customers for products and services are hard to find. But, what seems to exasperate businesses the most is not the recession itself or the considerable sacrifices they are obliged to make. What drives these business up the wall, and sadly all too frequently to the wall, is the government continually adding to their problems day after day after day.

Employers have now become arms of government, filling out endless forms, administering government regulations and spending countless hours dealing with government officials when all they want to do is to get on with running their companies. One local small firm involved in light assembly is obliged to receive 8 government inspector visits every year and fill out 12 very different and very detailed government forms.

We know from the government’s own Impact Assessments that the burden of new regulations inflicted on British business since 1997 is a staggering £78.16bn. When I was running a business, I used to do all my own books; VAT, outline tax returns, PAYE and so on. It was hard but manageable. The tax handbook then had 4,555 pages. Today after 12 years of Gordon Brown Budgets, it is over 9,000 pages long.

Few people start a small business with the sole objective of making shed loads of money. They establish a company to have something that they can call their own, to be free to follow their dream and to make a living that delivers something extra for their families. But the glum legacy of Gordon Brown’s administration is that profits have been squeezed, liabilities have been increased, costs have soared and the fun has gone out of the window.

Bring back this country of shop-keepers, small business people and entrepreneurs who bring us jobs, create wealth and provide a rewarding workplace. This country was built by the owners and workforces of small businesses and we need to liberate them from government so that they get on with what they do best. We need a government that enables before it enforces. We want Ministers that value people before their pet policies. We must have an administration that creates a climate for small businesses to flourish and hard work to be rewarded. Perhaps then and only then will we be able to return to a happier workplace that is richer in every sense of the word.

1 comment:

  1. (1) "Employers ... arms of government"

    As we discussed, some time ago by email Michael, this is a philosophy New Labour have extended to private landlords as well.

    And it is an aberrant philosophy.

    (2) On regulation Laura is exactly right. I replied some time ago to Tara Plumbing's blog on the subject of regulation of plimbers and electricians.

    Part P Building Regs may appear a responsible safeguarding New Labour move.

    But look at what it spawns ? Franchises offering a couple of weeks training and lo and behold the trainee is an electrician or plumber.

    And the cheapskate route to training in turn undermines the role of the Technical College.

    In the 70s I would say that Mr Weatherill and the Electrical Engineering Staff at Canterbury Tech had the balance right. Between offering courses useful to the local industry (like mining) but also preserving an academic content whichn is essential for engineers to have as a basis for future updating courses.

    That infrastructure was decimnated by Thatcher's market forces (see my emails re IEE Report 84 and dumbing down HNC by centralised dictat) and now the nail is in the coffin driven in by New Labour love of regulating for dumbed down standards.

    (3) We must look further back in history to determine at what time the conflict between knowing your job and knowing your place was won by the "Knowing your place" camp.

    It has resulted in a society in which low risk parochialism is over rewarded yet the low risk parochials have been empowered to keep the rest of society down.

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