Away from Europe, Labour has plans to raise the minimum wage to more than £8 an hour by 2019, push UK overseas territories to be put on an international blacklist if they refuse to cooperate with a drive against tax avoidance, and establish an apprenticeship for every school leaver who makes certain grades.
When we quiz Umunna on the British Business Bank, established by the coalition government under the watch of business secretary Vince Cable, he says Labour’s approach will not be to tear up what has been done before – rather expand and improve. He wants to scale up what has been started with the British Business Bank by injecting new capital, alongside bolstering what has gone on with the Green Investment Bank. Building on the British Business Bank will see the creation of a British Investment Bank – backing a network of regional banks with a purpose of supporting small business growth in particular areas. “We want to see more competition in the market, with more challenger banks like Aldermore and Handelsbanken. Lending to £5m businesses is dominated by four banks.” On late payment, he said: “We will require large companies, when they make their VAT return on a quarterly basis, to declare if they have paid suppliers on time. If they haven’t, each will have to pay interest to those suppliers.”
Business rate bonanzaOne of the core components to Labour’s message for business owners is its commitment to re-think the way the business rates system is carried out, and make sure bigger companies are paying a bigger share. The party would not continue with the recent reduction, to 20 per cent, of corporation tax. All of the money saved by bringing that back up a percentage point would be spent on a business rate reduction for every business with a rateable value of under £50,000. Perkins predicts that about 1.5m companies would see a reduction in the first year and a freeze in the second when it comes to a business rates bill, averaging out as a saving of around £450 per annum. For those above the £50,000 rateable value, Perkins brings up the point that, at 21 per cent, the UK will still have the lowest rate of corporation tax in the EU. “We won’t want to be a high tax country at all, but continually focusing on corporation tax, at a time when you have huge numbers of empty units on high streets and companies saying that business rates will take them under, is wrong.” He pointed to the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition as a government offering a one year discount, while the residual rate goes up. Read more from our General election 2015 focus:
- Confidence in UK growth falls amid volatile political climate
- Political parties must focus on education ahead of the general election
- Has Tony Blair’s speech on referendum been dismissed due to his broken promise?
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