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General Election 2024 – small business policies you need to know about

The General Election 2024 is now in full swing, with a start to campaigns across the country. But what’s in it for small business owners?

We’ve taken a look at the policies, websites and pledges of the seven leading parties. This is what we know so far, but we will be updating this article as new information and manifestos are announced.

Read on to find out about all of the policies or go straight to your preferred parties:

  1. Conservative
  2. Labour
  3. Liberal Democrats
  4. SNP
  5. Green Party
  6. Reform
  7. Plaid Cymru

Conservative

The Conservative Party have released a Clear Plan manifesto document.

It outlines a ten-point plan to support SMEs:

  • Ease burden of business rates for firms in the retail, leisure and hospitality by gradually increasing the multiplier on distribution warehouses that support online selling
  • Keep VAT threshold under review
  • Improve finance access for SMEs by expanding Open Finance and exploring the creation of regional mutual banks
  • Lift employee threshold so that more business qualify as medium sized and have reduced reporting responsibilities
  • Retain tax incentives including the Enterprise Investment Scheme, Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, Venture Capital Trusts
  • Promote digital invoicing and improve enforcement of the Prompt Payment Code
  • Ensure that Basel III capital reporting requirements don’t inhibit lending to SMEs
  • Continue the Invest in Women Task Force and the Lilac Review to encourage more female and disabled entrepreneurs
  • Work with British Business Bank and public sector fund managers to establish a £250 million Invest in Women Fund
  • Work with public sector organisations to ensure that procurement opportunities are focused on SMEs in their local economies

Some of the other policies listed in the document include:

  • A look to extend full expensing to include leasing
  • Won’t raise corporation tax
  • Raise public spending on R&D to £22 billion per year
  • Abolish main rate of National Insurance for the self-employed by the end of the next parliament

Labour

Labour have a ‘Plan for Small Business’, published in November 2023, which can be found here. Some of the policies include:

  • Legislation to tackle late payments and make companies publish their performance
  • Scrap business rates – replace it with ‘a fully costed and fully funded system of business property taxation that is fit for the 21st century’
  • Push for an EU visa waiver for UK touring artists, to help free up travel for artists and supporting services in creative sectors
  • Setting up new Technical Excellence Colleges around the country to give people specialist skills that small businesses need
  • ‘Transform’ Apprenticeship Levy to give employers more flexibility to train workforce in new and relevant skills. Called ‘Growth and Skills Levy’ – can be used on a greater range of training courses
  • Small and medium-sized employers who do not currently pay the Apprenticeships Levy will continue to receive 95 per cent co-payments
  • Labour’s New Deal for Working People – including a ban on zero hours contracts, measures to tackle one-sided flexibility, support for collective bargaining and stronger enforcement of rights and regulation. Ban on unpaid internships outside formal education or training courses

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems were one of the first major parties to launch their 2024 manifesto, with plenty to keep an eye on as a small business owner.

During their party conference in autumn 2023, the Liberal Democrats launched a “Fair Deal” plan, which would aim to reinvigorate and invest in the UK economy and business sector. This is reflected in their 2024 manifesto, where they state: “We will work in partnership with business to offer stability and ensure that we maximise the opportunities for investment, growth and employment across the country.”

A proposed reform of business rates is a key part of the Lib Dems’ plan to revitalise the high street, but this will of course affect small business owners as well. In general, stability is the name of the game here, with the party looking to make it easier for businesses to create new jobs and hire employees.

  • Abolish business rates and replace with Commercial Landowner Levy
  • Make it easier to create jobs and hire employees
  • Introduce a general duty of care for the environment and human rights in business operations and supply chains
  • A four-stage roadmap to rebuild the relationship with the EU
  • Review IR35 reforms
  • End loan charge
  • Work with the major banks to fund the creation of a local banking sector dedicated to meeting the needs of local small and medium-sized businesses
  • Tackle late payments by requiring all government agencies and contractors and companies with more than 250 employees to sign up to the Prompt Payment Code, making it enforceable

SNP

The SNP have not launched a manifesto at time of publication, but do have policies on their website around sectors such as agriculture, tourism and the arts.

  • A return to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for farmers
  • Will consult on initial percentages of 0.5 per cent for arts projects under £5 million and 1 per cent for those over £5 million, capped at £1 million for any individual project
  • Working with Scottish Enterprise and Creative Scotland to improve the business support available to creative industries – ensuring a better breadth of expertise for the many different parts of the sector
  • Support the digital capabilities of artists and creative businesses with a £1 million programme of workshops, mentoring and courses
  • Calling on the UK Government to work with the EU to deliver free movement for performers, artists, musicians and freelancers. Ensure there are no barriers to those looking to tour and perform in Scotland and the UK

Green Party

The Green Party have been actively discussing policies around small businesses and how they can support them in green efforts. In December 2023, on Small Business Saturday, the party called for the government to offer a support package to small businesses to aid in a green transition.

This pledge also included:

  • An additional £3 billion in Green Transition Grants for small businesses to help them prepare for and take advantage of the opportunities offered by greening the economy
  • Assistance for small businesses to decarbonise their transport needs. Independent traders and tradespeople need access to electric vans and other low carbon transport solutions on the same terms as large companies
  • Support for small businesses to improve employee wellbeing. Measures should include exempting all childcare providers in England from business rates
  • Reform of VAT to support small businesses and suspension of Covid repayments. The government must reform our VAT system so that it differentially supports smaller shops and businesses compared to larger and online businesses. Likewise, there should be an immediate suspension of Covid loan repayments to provide much needed relief for businesses.

Reform

Reform (formerly the Brexit Party) has a ‘working draft’ of a contract on its website rather than a manifesto, prioritising a high growth, high wage, low tax economy.

In the first 100 days, they pledge to:

  • Increase minimum profit threshold on corporation tax to £100,000
  • Reduce the main corporation tax rate from 25 per cent to 20 per cent, then to 15 per cent from year five
  • Abolish IR35 rules
  • Increase VAT threshold to £120,000

After that:

  • Abolish business rates for high street SMEs
  • Introduce online delivery tax at 4 per cent for large, multinational enterprises
  • Cut entrepreneurs’ tax relief to 5 per cent
  • Create SME Enterprise Zones for ‘left behind areas’ with a zero per cent tax for new or existing businesses that are creating jobs
  • Scrap employment laws ‘that make it risker to hire people’

Plaid Cymru

Again, Plaid Cymru don’t have a formal manifesto document at this stage, but lists the following policies on its website:

  • Create Prosperity Wales, a development agency focusing on growing small and medium-sized Welsh firms
  • Expand the role of the Development Bank of Wales and support the creation of a Community Bank to help domestically owned businesses grow their market share
  • Develop Industrial Innovation Clusters in key areas of the economy
  • Create a National Innovation Body, replacing the Innovation Advisory Council for Wales and the Chief Science Adviser’s Council to become the pre-eminent body to lead and coordinate the Welsh innovation system, focused on Welsh economic, environmental and societal priorities
  • Raising business investment in R&D every year until it reaches the UK average and increase Wales’ share of UK public R&D funding

Read more

What could the General Election 2024 mean for small businesses? – The UK General Election is happening on July 4, 2024. What do small business owners and professionals want to see from the next government?

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