Interviews

Five “golden opportunities” for SMEs previously highlighted in the Queen's Speech

6 min read

01 September 2015

In May 2015, David Cameron unveiled the first “conservative-only” Queen’s Speech in nearly two decades, with a radical agenda to reform taxation and welfare. With the Enterprise Bill set to allegedly help create two million more jobs over the next five years, we took a look at the implications for SMEs – and what opportunities lie ahead.

Cutting ties with stringent regulation

The coalition government made much of its Red Tape Challenge, whereby it sought to tackle the stock of unnecessary and over-complicated regulation. This ambition to ease the burdens on SMEs was carried into the current government’s agenda. It has also been suggested that it wants to increase the number of SMEs that have access to government contract opportunities.

Grant Thornton’s CEO Sacha Romanovitch, who assessed the impact of the speech in a statement, said: “The coalition government did a lot to reduce regulation for the smallest firms, but mid-sized businesses are reporting regulation as an increasing challenge. Too often mid-sized businesses are treated the same as large corporations; we would like to see government look at exempting more mid-sized businesses from the most stringent regulation.”

Linking London to the North of England

The Department for Transport has said it is “confident” the £50bn rail line HS2 – deemed as one of the biggest public sector projects in years – will greatly benefit both London and the North. Amid expectations of an increasing workload for businesses in the construction and engineering sectors, the HS2 promises to be a massive boost to supply chains as well. 

There is no doubt the project will drive the economies of the places where it stops – highlighting why the government has adopted the title: “HS2 – Engine for Growth”. 

For example, Jerry Blackett, CEO of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, places much emphasis on how the construction of a new station at Curzon Street will transform Birmingham’s city centre. He said: “There’s been an enthusiastic welcome for the work in the Curzon Street HS2 station area and Birmingham as a whole. These are really exciting times for the city and the arrival of HS2 will lead it into another era.”

Those planning to take advantage of the HS2 need to pay attention to the announcements of the Department of Transport, which will likely point to further business opportunities.

Chancellor George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse

With the UK lagging behind international rivals when it comes to spending on research and development, the chancellor has been keen to both invest in infrastructure and devolve powers to local authorities, in order to boost economic growth. Indeed, Osborne’s plan to link northern cities has been touched upon in recent Budgets, where he acknowledged that fuelling science and innovation would be key. 

Read more about the Northern Powerhouse:

Greater Manchester has recently gained greater control over its local spending and has seen a growth in media and technology companies. This has been partly fuelled by the decision to relocate parts of the BBC to Salford Quays.

“The power the North holds is really exciting,” said Darren Fell, CEO of Crunch Accounting. “We’ll be putting our next office in Manchester, which is an incredibly strong city for freelancers and micro-businesses.”

Tax lock

The tax lock on NI rates, income tax rates and VAT will be brought in as part of the Finance Bill and National Insurance Contributions Bill, and will “ensure” there are no rises in income tax rates, VAT rates or national insurance contributions rates before May 2020. This should afford business owners greater stability while planning future investments.

Grant Thornton echoed the sentiment: “The Tax Lock Bill brings some certainty for business over the next five years in terms of payroll and VAT administration by preventing rises in income tax, NIC and VAT rates.”

Potential rise of entrepreneurs

With childcare being deemed one of the most attractive office perks, the government plans to to double free childcare for working parents – with some families set to benefit as early as next year. The number of hours of free childcare will increase from 15 to 30.

According to Hari Mann, an entrepreneur and lecturer at Ashridge Business School, the move is likely to spur on more potential entrepreneurs. Mann said: “I think one of the reasons people want to be entrepreneurs is that it gives them much more control over their work and life; they can chose the hours they want to work. I think this will be useful for both men and women who want to take control of their work-life balance and become entrepreneurs.”

Businesses remain optimistic

What we have seen in the Queen’s Speech is a positive start, and overall the message appears to be one of ambition, enterprise and growth for firms across the country. Of course, businesses will welcome the government’s proposals to cut red tape, the move to more local decision-making and progress on an agenda, which will hopefully spell greater growth for UK companies.