News & Insight

2017 general election: a party-by-party guide for businesses

Max White

What do each of the party manifestos offer for small businesses?

On Thursday 8 June the UK will host a general election.

Bets on who will be voted in and the fullness or emptiness of their promises are to be hedged in another blog. In this post, we attempt to provide a non-partisan, non-speculative breakdown of what the major political parties have to offer for small businesses.

The Liberal Democrats

Party slogan

Fighting to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.

Party leader

Tim Farron.

Pledges for small business

The Liberal Democrats have long been the UK's most pro-Europe party. A vote for them in this general election would, they say, mean a second referendum on a Brexit deal.

On the economy, the party says that "the role of entrepreneurs and small businesses in delivering a thriving economy is fundamental". If elected, the Lib Dems will focus investment on freeing up funds for new businesses and businesses looking to scale-up.

Here is a list of the party's pledges to business owners:

  • Expand the activities of the state-owned British Business Bank, enabling it to perform a more central role in the economy by tackling the shortage of equity capital for growing firms and providing long-term capital for medium-sized businesses.
  • Create a new ‘start-up allowance’ to help those starting a new business with their living costs in the crucial first weeks of their business.
  • Support fast growing businesses seeking to scale up, through the provision of mentoring support.
  • Review business rates to reduce burdens on small firms, and make them the priority for any future business tax cuts.
  • Reform the Regulatory Policy Committee to remove unnecessary regulation, reduce regulatory uncertainty, and support new markets and investment, particularly in low-carbon and resource-efficient innovation.

The Conservatives

Party slogan

Building a country that works for everyone.

Party leader

Theresa May.

Pledges for small business

The Tories are the "party of enterprise and of the entrepreneur". That's according to their manifesto: Forward, Together.

On page 21, the Conservative's assure small business owners that if elected, they will continue to support small businesses by picking up their recently introduced rate relief scheme and through lower taxation for businesses. In addition, May's party promises that central government will prop up SMEs by purchasing 33% of its products and services from smaller companies by the end of the parliament.

Here is a look at some of the party's important policies for small businesses:

  • A new deal for ordinary, working people giving them a decent living wage and new rights and protections in the workplace.
  • Competitive and affordable energy costs following a new independent review into the cost of energy.
  • Prosperous towns and cities, underpinned by strong local institutions, the relocation of government function, and shared cultural assets across the country.

The Scottish National Party (SNP)

Party slogan

Stronger for Scotland.

Party leader

Nicola Sturgeon.

Pledges for small business

As the name suggests, the Scottish National Party (SNP) are the party with Scotland's best interests at heart. Their manifesto is perhaps the most comprehensive of the lot.

Pages 21 and 22 are the most relevant to smaller businesses. Here, they state that the Scottish Government is already helping small businesses by lifting more than half of all premises out of business rates altogether. Most of the taxes and regulations that impact on small businesses are, however, the responsibility of Westminster.

SNP MPs will work to ensure that UK agencies are working with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to support Scottish businesses to export.

In addition, SNP MPs will support the introduction of effective legal protections to ensure small businesses – particularly those attempting to scale up – are paid on time.

The Labour Party

Party slogan

We will build a better, fairer Britain.

Party leader

Jeremy Corbyn.

Pledges for small business

Before campaigning had even got underway, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “declared war” on big businesses in a speech to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Now Labour's manifesto has been published, we can see in detail what the party plans to do for UK businesses. The measure of the party's economic successes would, it says, not be measured "by the number of billionaires, but by the ability of our people to live richer lives".

Here are some of the ways the Labour party promises to support smaller businesses:

  • Mandate the new National Investment Bank, and regional development banks in every region, to identify where other lenders fail to meet the needs of SMEs and prioritise lending to improve the funding gap.
  • Reinstate the lower small-business corporation tax rate.
  • Scrap quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of under £85,000.

The Green Party

Party slogan

For the common good.

Party leader

Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas.

Pledges for small business

A Green economy would, according to the party's manifesto, "replace the exploitation of people and resources with decent, meaningful work." To be specific, the Greens pledge to create over 1 million jobs through investment and restoration of the public sector.

These are some of the Green party's small business-related policies:

  • Support and promote small businesses, co-operatives and mutuals, and the roll out of high speed broadband.
  • Support start-ups and creative enterprises through community credit and green investment, to provide opportunities for young people to be creative and innovative.
  • Reduce the gap between the highest and lowest paid, and increase the minimum wage to reach a genuine living wage of £10 an hour by 2020.

The UK Independence Party

Party slogan

We will bring Britain back together.

Party leader

Paul Nuttall.

Pledges for small business

UKIP say Britain's 5.5 million small businesses are the lifeblood of the British economy. It's the only party in this general election, it says, that is prepared to back British businesses and British workers.

Here is how it plans to help small businesses:

  • Cutting business rates by 20 per cent for the 1.5 million British businesses operating from premises with a rateable value of less than £50,000.
  • Making HM Revenue and Customs investigate big businesses or public sector bodies that repeatedly make late payments to smaller customers. Fines proportionate to the number of delayed payments will be levied and will escalate for repeat offenders
  • Improve access to trade credit insurance to remove the drag on growth for businesses struggling to secure loans, and give small traders the confidence to expand their businesses.
  • Encourage local trade by pushing every local authority in the country to offer at least 30 minutes’ free parking in town centres and shopping parades.

Election news for businesses

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be cutting through all the noise in the build-up to Election Day to bring you the important news for small businesses.

Just visit the Biz Hub for the latest general election updates.