The Conservative manifesto: round-up for small business

Today, the Tories released their manifesto. Here are the policies that are going to most affect you as a small business owner:

  • No National Insurance for the first 10 employees of every new business
  • Postpone the government's proposed National Insurance 1p increase (due next April) until April 2011
  • Reduce corporation tax
  • Simplify the tax system
  • Reduce corporation tax
  • Make government procurement (public sector contracts) more accessible for small and medium-sized businesses by simplifying and de-red-taping the application process
  • Start Local Enterprise Partnerships
  • Build a network of business mentors
  • Provide loans to entrepreneurial hopefuls
  • Bring forward the date of state pension age increase to age 66 - but not before 2016 for men and 2020 for women

The Tories have been getting a lot of back-patting from the business community of late. Today's manifesto will do them no harm. National Insurance is their campaign bazooka, and it's packing one hell of a shot. Their proposal to scrap the government's 1p increase next April has already very publicly blown a whole in Labour's front line (a formidable collective of FTSE 100 CEOs wrote an open letter of Tory support in revolt at Labour's NI hike). Now their planned NI waiver for the first 10 employees of every new business looks set to rally troops in every corner of the enterprise world.

It's a very strong measure. We've long lambasted the ridiculous amount of red tape you all have to deal with. It not only slows and trips up new businesses, but puts off prospective start-ups too. Which is the last thing an economy in urgent need of entrepreneurial stimulus needs.

Promises to simplify the tax system and reduce corporation tax of course sound good too, but without any further detail fleshing them out we're not going to be singing from the rooftops about those ideas quite just yet.

Likewise with the promises about improving the procurement process, more loans for small businesses and founding Enterprise Partnerships. We've heard all these suggestions before, and we've learnt they're all-too-easy to bandy about in a quick-win attempt to placate and please small business owners, and all-too-easy to forget to follow up on.

But maybe we're being too quick to judge. The Tories are obviously trying to help out small businesses here, and they're always going to be suspected of making empty promises, simply by virtue of being politicians.

All we mean to point out, as we have done before, is that the real differentiator between the two main parties here is National Insurance (since Labour came up with plenty of similar pledges to increase lending and support entrepreneurs in the Budget).

And while many economists are worried that scrapping the NI increase might harm the deficit-fixing and so the country as a whole, we know that for many of you, a tax on businesses is the last thing you need, and it might well be the deciding factor in how you vote next month. Gordon Brown, you have been warned.

Do you think the Tory manifesto goes far enough? Have your say here.

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