That’s right; the government gives with one hand and takes back with the other, how else would you define even handed?
On the plus side there are some good initiatives coming from the government at the moment for the benefits of smaller businesses:
The first is that the red tape for small businesses seeking public sector contracts is to be cut. Whereas in the past they have had to complete a pre-qualification questionnaire which I believe was a bit of a nightmare without specialist help, this is to be abolished for those contracts which are valued below the EU’s threshold. This is all part of a push started by Lord Young, the enterprise advisor to the prime Minister, to help smaller businesses generate income from the public sector.
The second announcement has a rather more oblique benefit; smaller businesses are to be supported by the government if they are going into insolvency. This may not sound like a significant advantage, but when a small business is heading towards liquidation two of the major victims are employees and other small businesses that happen to be creditors. This change in approach promises to give the professionals – the receivers and administrators – more scope to save jobs and to pay more to the suppliers.
And then there are the changes which don’t help them a great deal:
Sick pay reform is likely to create pressure on small businesses; the impact of having to support a single long-term sick employee will be far more to damaging to a small business than it is to a more significant enterprise. Whilst the same proportion of people are likely to go onto long term sickness in the small business arena as in the rest of the economy, the proportion of the payroll represented by that person for the unlucky small business is hugely more significant. Somehow, this factor seems to have escaped the powers that be.
And, of course, if Labour gets into power, they have generously offered to more than double paternity pay; and they still say they are trying to be business friendly!
Joined up government has been a claim of both parties for many years, and both parties seem to stumble at the first, let alone the last, hurdle!