SMEs’ confidence in all political parties is suffering according to a new poll – although of those who do see their needs reflected in a party, more would point to Labour than the Conservatives.
Nearly one in four UK SMEs were left flummoxed when asked to identify with a political party, with 22 per cent of the 500 businesses surveyed by Critical Research for Bibby Financial Services unable to identify which party best suited their needs.
Of the businesses that felt a political party was reflecting their needs, there was a notable skew towards the left. One in three (33 per cent) SMEs said the Labour Party best served their needs, compared to just one in four (26 per cent) who chose the Conservative Party, historically the party of business.
The findings are welcome news to Labour, which has been on a charm offensive with the business sector under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership. Meanwhile the Conservatives have found themselves under fire from some quarters, notably the automobile sector, for sending mixed messages on net zero requirements.
When asked about the most critical issues, economic growth and job creation came out on top, with 71 per cent of the SMEs surveyed – who were members of the manufacturing, construction, wholesale, transport and services sectors – identifying it as their most pressing concern.
Tax policies and incentives came in as the second biggest concern (68 per cent), followed by access to affordable financing (46 per cent).
Nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of the firms said they would like tax incentives to be implemented by the government that wins the next general election. Access to low interest loans or grants for business expansion and job creation was also a popular policy, with 57 per cent of the SMEs identifying it as desirable.
Post-Brexit, 29 per cent of SMEs surveyed said they would also like to see streamlined and simplified regulatory processes put in place to help navigate compliance requirements.
Theo Chatha, chief financial officer at Bibby Financial Services, said: “Since the last general election, small businesses have faced myriad challenges, from sky-high inflation to spiralling interest rates and supply chain shortages.
“But, unsurprisingly, confidence in central government to manage the economy effectively is low. This research indicates that SMEs feel abandoned by politicians, in general.
“What they desperately want from whichever party wins the next general election are policies and action that reflect that government’s genuine belief in the value that SMEs deliver to the UK economy overall.
“That means greater economic stability and certainty, a more favourable fiscal environment and much better access to sources of finance, so they can properly plan for growth.
“All SMEs really need is a supportive framework. The rest they can do for themselves.”