This week, the chancellor answered our members’ calls for a stricter crackdown against multinational companies that avoid tax in Britain. We welcomed George Osborne’s decision to use taxation as a way to influence more ethical business practices in the UK.
The chancellor’s ‘Google tax’ crackdown is a positive step towards creating a fairer system where larger businesses are seen to pay their fair share of taxes, and a step in the right direction to levelling the business playing field.
Separately, our own campaign has seen Diageo, the global drinks company, clarify its payment terms to suppliers and commit to a 60-day maximum for all SMEs in the UK in line with the Prompt Payment Code. We’ve also seen great interest from UK corporates following the launch of our Big Business Ethics Pledge, which challenges the industry to operate openly and ethically.
These recent moves may be cause for some celebration. Nonetheless, we believe that the government must put in place further measures in order to truly support small businesses. As our members tell us on a weekly basis, the growth of UK SMEs continues to be undermined by the spiralling cost of doing business, suffocating red tape and bullying tactics from big businesses.
Exorbitant business rates remain a significant burden for our members and, while we welcome measures to mitigate the rising costs, a fundamental review is needed sooner rather than later. The government should bring forward the proposed review, a commitment we would also like to see in all the main parties’ manifestos.
Continued commitment to cutting the cost of compliance for small firms is also essential. The recovery continues to gather pace, but many small firms need time to invest in skills training and growth without being bogged down in red tape.
What’s clear is that big business is starting to feel the pressure to operate more openly and ethically and to treat their suppliers as they wish to be treated. This is good news for British SMEs and is widely supported by the UK public, with a recent ComRes poll showing that 81 per cent of adults in Great Britain agree that SMEs need more help to ensure their voices are heard in parliament.
As such, we are calling on political parties to put small business interests at the heart of their election manifestos; and for the next government to put the backbone of the British economy, small business, at the top of the political agenda.