Cut to grow - a plea to politicians on behalf of small businesses

  • With the growth of our business being at the top of my agenda, I find myself paying closer attention than ever to the political situation.

    Like England's one-day batsmen, Brown and Darling look to be on their way back to the pavilion. Never at their best in public, last week's party conference did little to boost their ratings and confidence.

    This is a shame, because in the single most important issue of recent times - the global financial crisis - Brown has proved himself to be the safest pair of hands. The support for the banks and the expansion in public spending has been instrumental in containing the depths of the recession - a model that has been copied across the world. When the dust has settled, this will go down in history as Brown's legacy. As the BBC's Nick Robinson observed: 'Now it seems the electorate will treat him as they treated Churchill in 1945: "Thanks for the help, but now it's time for you to go"'.

    These are finally balanced times. Where we see signs of recovery - rising house prices and increasing confidence in the UK; the end of technical recession in France, Germany and Japan - we see signs of a double dip recession elsewhere. Higher than expected unemployment figures from the US pushed the FTSE100 back below the psychological 5,000 level on Friday.

    Finally balanced indeed.

    Forgive the bias, but one of the principal policies for economic recovery must be a strategy for the growth of small businesses. Small businesses like ours with an ability and ambition to grow have the potential to create jobs and wealth, which in turn will create wages, spending and tax income.

    As an advocate of the spending that is happening now, I accept that it has to be met with increases in tax revenues in future. My anxiety is that Brown's strategy is geared to raising revenue with tax increases rather than economic growth. We already have the prospect of £10 billion worth of tax rises next year - amongst them increases that will hit small businesses very hard: fuel duty, VAT rising again, higher business rates and the pending increase in employers' National Insurance contributions. These make me, and I'm sure every other business owner, very nervous indeed. This is not a healthy situation.

    Despite my admiration for Brown as a financial manager, there is a worrying lack of logic in many of these rises.

    Employers' National Insurance is an explicit tax on jobs. We should be encouraging businesses to employ people, not taxing them more for doing so.

    Higher business rates will hurt cash flow and lead to more empty shops and offices. Empty shops and offices depress the nation. Furthermore, as many commercial premises are owned by pension funds, the value of people's pensions and their feelings of security will be hurt, leading to cut backs in spending.

    The pointless cut in VAT at the last pre-budget report remains lost on me. The changes required to implement the change are significant and impose a costly and unnecessary distraction on small business owners.

    But it is a tax that is not currently flagged for increase that causes me the greatest anxiety. Corporation Tax is the biggest inhibitor to business growth. Like many businesses, we have an impending tax bill based on last year's profits and have had to create a reserve to meet it - a reserve that could be used to fuel the expansion of the business. A cut in Corporation Tax would lead to significant increases in employment and investment in the short term and propel growth and a higher tax take in the long term.

    Through the conference season, I haven't heard any party come out with solid policies for small businesses. The party that eventually does will get my vote this time.

    What do you think? Let me have your views.

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