Opinion

Labour for majority of policy areas, British business owners say

4 min read

17 April 2015

Labour has won and sustained an early lead amongst the British business community in the lead up to the general election, winning the most support for five of nine policy areas deemed most important.

The findings, from The Formations Company’s general election app, have drawn together the opinions of over 1,300 business owners – all who have completed the app since its launch just before Easter. The app groups policy sets by issue (without indicating which party it is aligned with), and leaves a sliding scale for respondents to indicate how important they felt the policy was to them. 

Policies concerning EU and international trade were considered the most important, with support for Labour (28.6 per cent) taking the top spot. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats shared a joint second place (19.7 per cent), with Greens trailing in last place (14.7 per cent). 

Support then for the UK’s EU membership teeters ahead, suggesting that for business owners, the value of foreign investment coming into the UK is more important than potential to strengthen the pound, if the UK secedes and is considered a “safe haven”. This sentiment is in line with the finding that in 2013-2014, foreign investment into the UK was the highest in Europe, and the second highest in the world. 

Other affective policy areas, such as job creation and zero hours contracts, tax and business rates, and employer National Insurance contributions saw mixed responses. Labour’s pledge to give employers more control over apprenticeships, funding and standards was amongst those that gleaned the most support (27.2 per cent), whilst Conservative focus on maintaining the most competitive business tax regime in the G20 was the most favoured approach to tax (24 per cent). 

Read more from our general election coverage:

Maintaining competitive tax rates has been shown to be key in encouraging companies to start up, and in protecting smaller businesses from paying the same rates as their larger peers. Support for Conservative promises to conduct a major review into business rates, with the view of making a clearer billing, sharing and appeals processes, also suggests that what business owners, particularly those of SMEs, want is more support. However, whilst support for Labour over tax policies was not as strong, those who did support them felt more strongly about their policies (23.7 per cent). 

Winning a lead only in policy areas for pensions (23.6 per cent), business owners voiced support for the Liberal Democrat’s view to improve workplace pensions, and continuing to auto-enrol workers. Overall however, policies on pensions were considered the least important by all business owners. 

UKIP and the Greens, the only two parties failing to win the most support on any particular issue, saw glimmers of support in areas of devolution to local government and red tape (UKIP), and employment law (Greens), coming in second place for each respective area. 

UKIP’s decisive premise to cut bureaucracy that hinders growth of small business and entrepreneurs headed the policy set considered the most important by business owners (25.8 per cent), whilst the Green’s idea to reduce working hours to an average of 35 hours per week, and requiring 40 per cent of any company board to be women won the second-highest level of support (21.6 per cent), those behind the Conservatives (25.4 per cent) felt most strongly about their policies: including that which requires companies with over 250 employees to publish the difference between the average pay of male and female employees.