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LIVE: Rolling coverage of 2015 general election for UK’s SMEs and entrepreneurs

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Whether you’re concerned about the prospect of leaving the European Union, are after a cut in business rates to help better balance the books or believe there are not enough skilled workers in our country, we’ll be touching every point.

14:23pm:

More comments from business leaders – do you agree or disagree with them?

Celia Francis, CEO at Rated People, said: “The three million new apprenticeships promised in the Conservative manifesto would create great opportunities for the next generation and be welcome recognition of the role trades play in our society.

“But, they won’t come from nowhere. The government needs to take action to ensure that hiring an apprentice makes good business sense for the firms and sole traders who take them on.

“The National Insurance breaks George Osborne announced in 2014 were a good first step, but these should be made permanent and extended to cover all apprentices. In addition, existing incentive schemes should be extended to provide financial support for small businesses looking to hire more than one apprentice.

“Finally, we’d like to see support given directly to sole traders who are looking to make the first step in extending their business. It’s too confusing right now to navigate employment and tax law, meaning many tradespeople are dissuaded from bringing on an apprentice.”

Martin Hook, UK MD at Alma Consulting Group, added: “We are pleased to see that the UK has voted for continuity and stability. This should increase business confidence in the UK and, as this morning’s surge in the FTSE 100 and pound indicated, a strong economy.

“Whilst the Conservatives have achieved a majority, it is still a small one. Therefore, we wouldn’t expect any major policy changes, although we have to hope this does not result in disruption of new economic policies.

“With the current corporation tax rate retained, and promised initiatives such as trebling the start-up loans programme, this should mean a positive environment for continued UK business growth and success.

“From an R&D perspective, the continuity of a Conservative government means that major changes to the R&D tax relief schemes are unlikely. We expect this to result in some much-needed continuity for the programme and further improvement in the number of businesses taking advantage of the available incentives. One small concern is that non-investment in HMRC, as announced earlier this year in the Budget, could impact on their ability to process R&D claims efficiently.”

Shalini Khemka, CEO of E2Exchange, commented: “A Conservative majority has given new life to small businesses.

“Ahead of the election there were concerns that the enterprise friendly culture, which the coalition government has worked so hard to nourish, could be swept away overnight. Today’s result will be a welcome relief for business owners, ensuring that policies such as entrepreneur’s relief and the current £10m lifetime gain tax are kept intact – policies which would have been under threat if Labour had come to power.

“The previous government made impressive steps in establishing incentives around the entrepreneur’s investment scheme but there is still more to be done, especially around developing apprenticeships and SEIS schemes.

“Although business confidence today is high, a Conservative government will likely lead to a referendum on the EU and we should be mindful of the impact a Brexit could have on UK SMEs, especially in terms of trade and recruiting a skilled workforce.”

12:06pm:

With so many big-name Liberal Democrats losing their seats, just who is going to take over from Clegg? Tim Farron and Norman Lamb have become early favourites of the eight remaining MPs. Farron held onto Westmorland and Lonsdale with 51 per cent of the vote and Lamb kept his long-term seat of North Norfolk, where he has been MP since 2001.

11:40am:

Nick Clegg has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats. Making the revelation at a press conference, the former deputy prime minister was visibly emotional during a speech that saw him describe the outcome as “immeasurably more crushing than I could ever have feared”. 

“To serve my country at a time of crisis is an honour that will stay with me forever,” he said. “We will never know how many lives we have changed for the better because we had the courage to step up at a time of crisis.”

11:12am:

Conservative defence secretary Michael Fallon was blasted by politicians for his “desperate” and “embarrassing” comment on 9 April when he said “Ed Miliband stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader. Now he is willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister.”

But with many general election-related trends jockeying for position, David Miliband has been brought into the trending mix on Twitter as people disappointed with the result – and internet trolls – discuss whether the voting outcome would have been different with an alternative Miliband at the helm.

11:04am:

John Wyn-Evans, head of investment strategy at Investec Wealth & Investment, commented: “The markets’ reaction to the result has been predictably positive, with the pound being the initial beneficiary. Gilt yields have also fallen on the prospect of more austerity and a lower deficit while shares are rising, unsurprisingly led by house builders, domestic retail banks and regulated utilities and outsourcing companies. To put things into perspective, though, that still leaves the index below where it was a week last Tuesday.
“However, without wishing to throw too much cold water on the celebrations, we will return to “business as usual” very shortly, and there is the small matter of a promised referendum on membership of Europe to negotiate. It has long been our opinion that, at the asset class level at least, UK markets will be more affected by global than domestic trends and influences. This has been especially evident in recent days in the bond market, with profit-taking in German Bunds sparking extraordinary moves in all developed market bonds. It is a similar story for global equities, where investors are grappling with the recent moves in currencies and inflation expectations as well as the jump up in bond yields. We don’t envisage this as being worse than a short-term correction, especially with the amount of liquidity being provided by central banks in Europe, Japan and to some extent China. We see further gains ahead for equities, but the summer promises continued volatility.”

10:28am:

Derek Kelly, managing director at ClearSky Business, said: Derek Kelly, managing director at ClearSky Business, had this to say. “After all the talk of coalitions, backroom deals and confidence-and-supply arrangements, I think most small business owners will be breathing a sigh of relief today.

“David Cameron and George Osborne have laid out a pro-business agenda, and their unexpected majority gives them the mandate to implement it.

“Governments cannot create wealth, jobs and new businesses, but they can create a framework that encourages growth. Britain’s start-ups and SMEs will now be hoping that the Tories deliver on the pledges contained in their small business manifesto, including cutting red tape, increasing start-up loans and enabling expansion through the Help to Grow scheme.

“The one concern for SMEs, particularly exporters, will be Europe. The prospect of a referendum on Britain’s EU membership must not be allowed to dominate the next two years or restrict investment and job creation.”

10:05am:

Some 113 people have voted for parliamentary candidate Ronnie Carroll, a former Eurovision contestant who died four weeks before the election and just days after getting his name printed on ballot papers.

Meanwhile, the UK general election has made headline news in Italy. Ansa, Italy’s national news agency, claimed the result could have grave implications for the future of the EU. On its website the paper mentioned that David Cameron would have to honour his promise of holding an EU referendum and that the Liberal Democrats had been “massacred”.

9:45am:

In a night that upset the pollsters’ predictions, there have been shock results. Some notable MPs lost their seats, so here we’ve gathered some of the biggest surprises.

Ed Balls – A huge hit for Labour, the shadow chancellor has lost his seat to opera singer Andrea Jenkyns in a big coup for the Conservatives.

Danny Alexander – It was a seat watched with interest as early predictions did indicate Danny Alexander could be in trouble, and indeed he was. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey was one of 56 seats swept by the SNP, with Drew Hendry usurping the Liberal Democrat.

George Galloway –The Respect MP lost his seat by 10,000 votes to Labour’s Naz Shah and promptly demanded a recount. The recount showed the same outcome.

Esther McVey – It may well be water off a duck’s back in the grand scheme of things, considering Conservatives are on track for a majority, but Esther McVey losing Wirral West to Labour was still a blow nonetheless.

Simon Hughes – Another big-name Liberal Democrat to lose out as Labour’s Neil Coyle triumphed in Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

Vince Cable – A bruising night for the Liberal Democrats saw business secretary Vince Cable pipped to the post by Tania Mathias of the Conservatives.

9:40am:

There are 20 seats left to declare. So far the Conservatives have 315, Labour has 228, SNP has 56, Liberal Democrats trail behind with eight, while UKIP and the Green Party both have one.

Nick Clegg will make a statement at 11:30, while Ed Miliband is expected to speak at midday.

9:22am [The next day]:

Good morning! For those just tuning back into the general election, the Conservatives are on course for a majority win. The Conservatives are expected to have won a 37 per cent share of the national vote, Labour 31 per cent, UKIP 13 per cent, the Liberal Democrats eight per cent, the SNP five per cent, the Green Party four per cent and Plaid Cymru one per cent.

5:25pm:

After a full day of us tracking the polling day discussion, make sure you take a good look at the content Real Business published in the six weeks leading up to this day, which includes interviews with the Conservatives, Labour and the Green Party.

4:35pm:

So, with the afternoon nearly over and only four and a half hours left to vote, what have the business representatives of each party been up to? Social media has emerged as a great way to keep up with the movements of politicians, especially as it manages to catch them unawares sometimes.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna has been out in his local constituency with his team.

The Conservative’s minister of state Matthew Hancock has just finished a pre-election tour of 100 businesses in 100 days and let his followers know who he’d, unsurprisingly, voted for.

Business secretary Vince Cable, a Liberal Democrat MP, has been rather less vocal on Twitter today but began the day by thanking all those who had backed him.

Labour shadow minister for small business Toby Perkins, whose constituency is up in the north, has also been out with his team canvassing for votes.

With UKIP’s former business spokesperson Amjad Bashir defecting to the Conservatives, the closest we could come to a business personality at this party was the leader himself, who might have been celebrating a little too early in the pub.

We’re not quite sure what Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap lorwerth was saying at the beginning of this tweet, but he appeared to be looking back at a previous election.

3:46pm:

At 10:31am we revealed that today’s general election was dominating Twitter’s top trends across the country, with the top four consisting of #IVoted, #votingmatters, #democracy and Polling Station.

It’s 3.46pm and #DogsAtPollingStations is now sitting obediently in the second spot as Brits nationwide rabidly post pictures of pooches that can be found waiting for their owners to vote – unless they’re actually just deliberating in the spring air before taking the plunge themselves.

3:27pm:

Reaching out to Real Business with her thoughts on voting day, Sonia Blizzard, MD of telecoms security firm Beaming, is concerned about skills. “We want to be paying decent wages to skilled employees for excellent work supplied to great customers and we need favourable conditions to do this within the business sector,” she explained.

“In the public sector, we need better careers advice at schools and the opportunity for creativity to flourish, including coding, alongside strong science education.  We need inventors and to keep our scientists here making new discoveries which will help us with the challenges we face whether in high tech engineering or in the NHS.” 

3:10pm:

The approach from political parties to create a specific manifesto for businesses has been varied. Some, like the Conservatives and Labour, have gone to town with mini-manifestos – while others have left it to the business community to read between the lines of a full document. Here, we assembled some quick links to find out which parties have done what.

Conservatives

Labour

SNP

UKIP

Liberal Democrats

Green Party

Plaid Cymru

2:34pm:

Lawrence Jones, founder and CEO of UKFast, has got in contact with Real Business and had this to say. “We’ve never seen a situation like this before where small parties have such influence over the outcome. Yet, whilst it will be engaging to watch the results unfold, I think many people in the business community are concerned that there will be change simply for change’s sake. 

“Personally, I think any change now could hamper the progress that has been made over the last few years. The way I see it, we should allow the current government to stay the course and keep boosting Britain’s economy. This isn’t to say they are perfect, but if you think about some of their achievements – apprenticeships and R&D tax credits, for example – they have been largely positive for the business community.

“Ultimately, it’s this country’s SMEs who are driving the economy forward and I hope, for the sake of all of these hard-working businesses, that Labour don’t get a chance to disrupt this progress.”

2:10pm:

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party will be fielding 16 parliamentary candidates and 13 local candidates. It has actually been established in the United Kingdom since 1983 and was created by the musician David Sutch. Their policies include scrapping all public transport in favour of magic carpets and requiring any immigrant called Ronnie looking to move to the UK, to arrive in pairs.

They have failed, on numerous occasions, to win even a single parliamentary seat, so have never had a chance to implement brilliant policies like: “The constituency of ‘South Hams’ to be renamed ‘South Hams Egg And Chips’.” However, after looking through their old manifestos, it revealed that a surprising number of their ideas have become part of UK law.

The party campaigned for all day opening of pubs in the 1980s, which became law in 1995. In the ’60s, Lord Sutch stood as a candidate for his National Teenage Party – the key policy revolved around lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. One of their first campaigns included the abolition of dog licenses.

Thanks to the party Carnaby Street was pedestrianised, commercial radio was made legal and pets were issued with passports.

1:50pm:

More comments just in! Clive Ormerod, managing director of OMS, believes there is a sense of uncertainty out there about “what kind of government we are going to get, with no clear front runner and the possibility of an uncomfortable coalition”. 

“I wouldn’t say that has translated into people putting off decisions regarding training projects yet, but it could do,” he added.

Meanwhile, Peter Chadha, of DrPete Technology Experts, has said: “There seems to be a general consensus from what the different political parties are saying that small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of the UK. This is great news, but I worry about things like increased regulation and increased impediments and burden on employing people. Regrettably, successive governments have also failed on transport and while I’m encouraged to know about HS2 and Crossrail, all parties seem to be oblivious, or scared, to fix the desperate need to solve our problems at airports.” 

1:32pm:

We saw during a recent #AskBoris Q&A session with London’s mayor that businesses were keen to jump on the bandwagon and seize the chance for a spot of publicity.

Today’s election is no different, as Spanish restaurant chain La Tasca has launched a Scottish-themed “party political” campaign, which has seen the Scotland division of the business provide locals a special £9.95 polling day Manifesto Menu.

According to the company, “key policies focus on providing Scots with options such as healthier gluten-free dishes and low-ABV beverages in order to tackle the country’s difficult relationship with food and drink.”

Check out the video below and see if La Tasca deserves your vote…

1:11pm:

Who has heard of the Give Me Back Elmo Party? It’s candidate, Bobby Smith, is running against David Cameron in the Oxfordshire constituency of Witney. It’s policies include flattening the hamlet of Dean and diverting HS2 through it, as well as building a 1960s council estate.

12:58pm:

Research by Silicon Valley Bank has revealed that entrepreneurs believe tax is the biggest issue when it comes to the next government. Beating out other topics of conversation such as regulation and immigration, reforming the tax system is top of the list of demands.

Here is a summary of the results:

  • Reforming tax system (25 per cent)
  • Helping businesses access capital (21 per cent)
  • Championing small business and startups (12 per cent)
  • Encouraging immigration (11 per cent)
  • Supporting research and development (7 per cent)
  • Simplifying regulations and decreasing the bureaucracy faced by entrepreneurs (4 per cent)

“There has been a surprising lack of focus on innovation and entrepreneurship in the manifestos from main political parties to date. These two areas are major drivers of national competitiveness, increased employment and wealth creation,” said SVB’s head of UK relationship banking Gerald Brady.

“The parties gravitated to the big three issues in the last couple of elections. which means there is a risk the concerns of the entrepreneurial community are overlooked or lost in the noise of other policy topics.”

12:48pm:

For the most part, the stream of results won’t mean a great deal to many of us until well into the night. There are though some particular seats of interest to keep your eye on if you are intending to stay for the entire ride:

Paisley & Renfrewshire South – It went red in 2010, but Douglas Alexander is battling to hold onto his seat, with polls predicting it could be part of the SNP whitewash in Scotland.

Thurrock – This was a Conservative seat in 2010, but could potentially go UKIP’s way in 2015. Tim Aker is the man to watch, who’s a Member of the European Parliament and looking to unseat the Conservatives’ Jackie Doyle-Price.

Kingston & Surbiton – Ed Davey is likely feeling a bit hot under the collar,with the Conservatives breathing down his neck for the Liberal Democrat seat.

Sheffield Hallam – Potentially one of the biggest upsets of the election could be Nick Clegg’s fate. Lord Ashcroft posted a prediction of Clegg losing by two points to Labour challenger Oliver Coppard, though a later ICM poll suggested the deputy prime minister should hold on thanks to tactical votes.

Loughborough – Education secretary Nicky Morgan is another prominent candidate who could lose out in this unpredictable election. It’s a marginal constituency, though Ashcroft’s latest poll indicated she was nine points ahead of Labour contender Matthew O’Callaghan.

Brighton Pavilion – It marked the first MP the Green party has ever had, and Caroline Lucas will be hoping Brighton still feels positively enough about her to keep her in.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenock and Strathspey – One for the Liberal Democrats to watch anxiously is Danny Alexander’s current seat. He won convincingly last time round with 41 per cent of the vote, and has been at the forefront of the coalition as chief secretary to the treasury. Many polls are suggesting this won’t be the case for 2015.

Wirral West – Esther McVey’s constituency is very much up in the air, which is a worry for the Conservatives. The employment minister clinched the seat in 2010, but looks as if she might lose out to Labour.

Thanet South – The seat UKIP will be watching most avidly, Nigel Farage has opted to run here, hoping his campaigning will win him favour with the voters who plumped for the Conservatives last time round.

Dartford – This north Kent seat has become something of a bellwether – heralding Margaret Thatcher’s ascension to Number 10, pre-empting Tony Blair’s arrival as prime minister by going red, before back to blue for David Cameron in 2010. Conservative incumbent Gareth Johnson won with a hefty majority that time round, so it’ll be interesting to see if Labour has done enough to unsettle this – and if Dartford’s bellwether status continues.

12:25pm:

While recent months have appeared to indicate the FTSE 100 is immune to general election uncertainty, today’s reading makes for more predicable, but worrying, reading.

Falling to a one-month low, after dipping by 121 points (1.7 per cent), it remains to be seen how the ultimate result will impact the markets.

Below are are the FTSE 100 performance for today (top) and the last month (bottom).

Let us know in the comment box at the bottom whether the election is causing your business any uncertainty.

12:18pm:

Another big issue in the lead up to the general election has been the Living Wage. A new poll from Business for Scotland has found 96 per cent of SMEs support the Living Wage. Of those surveyed, 75 per cent pay the Living Wage or more, despite a majority not being signed up as an official Living Wage employer.

Reasons cited for paying the Living Wage include motivating staff and that it makes “economic sense”. Those not paying identified issues such as local government contracts binding them to lower wages and margins being so low that each cannot afford to pay the level of wages desired.

12:08pm:
Some people’s polling stations are more exciting than others…

Though this has led to a tactical approach from some:

11:52am:

As one of the more authoritative pollsters, Lord Ashcroft, former deputy chairman of the Conservatives, has said: “All the final polls so far seem to be showing a move towards Labour…”

However, his stats read slightly differently.

11:47am:

So, what actually happens once the votes are in?

The 40,000 polling stations close at 10pm, and those who want to find out the result as soon as possible are in for a long night, but so too are the count assistants who tally up the votes. There’s still ongoing debate about the merits and cons of electronic voting, but this time round at least, all eyes will be on the people manually vote-counting papers.

When the polls close, millions of votes will be transported in boxes to everything from schools to town halls where the counting assistants are on hand. These are often current or former council employees, though sometimes local authorities advertise externally. In order to be considered for the coveted role there are some strict rules – those who have worked in support of a political party aren’t allowed. Check out the Electoral Commission for more guidelines.

Counters arrive about half an hour early and will do a preliminary tally to ensure numbers match up with the number of ballot papers issued. Once that’s done, the counters start sorting the votes, again with guidance from the Electoral Commission as to what is acceptable. Papers with scrawls, additions or misplaced marks are noted as a doubtful paper. If you’ve written your name and address on, or identified yourself in another way, you’ll be marked as a doubtful. See here for a thorough 50-odd page guide as to how you ascertain just how the counters are told to add up those rogue votes.

The votes are sorted into main parties and others, then the proper count gets started.

Counters sort votes into piles of 25 or 50 and then pass the stacks along to be ‘bundle-flicked’ by a team leader, who’s checking it’s for the right party and all the ballot papers are the same.

It’s a rigorous, well-rehearsed process, but some are particular experts in the art of swift counting. Sunderland City Council has been the first to declare a result for the last five general elections, and it’s not by chance. Sixth formers are assembled to pass ballot boxes in a line, with bank tellers counting the votes. It also uses lighter paper for its ballot papers, with a weight of 80g per sq m as opposed to 100g.

11:30am:

The issue of late payments has been one no party has tried to shirk away from. Making sure smaller companies are not bullied by larger ones is an easy promise to make. 

The Conservatives have pledged to put in place a Small Business Conciliation service to mediate in late payment disputes. It has also promised to strengthen the Prompt Payment Code – that promotes and encourage large firms to commit to 30 day payment terms as standard with a 60 day maximum – and ensure all major suppliers sign up. Labour has promised to “strengthen rules on late payments” in his manifesto. 

Shedding more light on the topic, David Vine, UK head of SMB at Concur said he wants to see “quick, decisive action” whoever walks into power. “Honestly, nobody wins when payments are delayed. Suppliers – often SMBs – can easily go out of business if services delivered in good faith aren’t paid for promptly. Enterprises – and a number of high profile ones are named in the Forum of Private Business’s ‘Hall of Shame’ –  suffer a double whammy of losing critical suppliers and, in extreme cases, getting blamed for people in a local area losing their jobs,” he added.

“It is essential for the health of the economy as a whole that enterprises take seriously their responsibility to pay vendors in a timely fashion. By adopting invoicing technology, companies can make the process instant, automated and efficient. In tandem, we urge the next government – whatever colour it is – to act decisively on the issue of late payments and its paralysing effect on growth and innovation. This can’t be something that is left ‘on the back burner’ until mid-way through the next parliament, or gets stuck in committee after committee.”

11:26am:

The vote of the celebrity has been a big part of this year’s general election. From actor Martin Freeman being the star of Labour’s TV advertisement to Ed Miliband’s now infamous interview on YouTube with Russell Brand, never before have politicians sought to garner so much endorsement.

Miliband used his Twitter account to acknowledge the support of comedian and actor Steve Coogan, who has also served in the party’s broadcast material.

On the business front, well known personalities such as Peter Stringfellow, Karren Brady and Brent Doberman have come out in support of the Conservatives, while Labour can count on the backing of Alan Sugar, Delia Smith and Duncan Bannatyne.

11:24am:

It seems like party leaders favour a morning vote, with Miliband, Cameron, Sturgeon and Farage all confirming their votes. Still no sign of Clegg and Bennett though…

11:17am

Technology business builder Adam Hale, of Fairsail, has shared his insight with us. He believes that Britain needs immigration and “yet all parties seem to be aiming for zero net migration; this is an absurd aim”.

He said: “I think they are all wrong. And let’s have far more focus on technology in education and stop harping on about an issue just to win a few minority swing voters. We want progression and innovation, a focus on what we can make the UK proud, which will ultimately create more jobs.”

11:00am:
If you’re still yet to vote, here are a few dos and don’ts on behaviour in a polling station…

  • Don’t take a picture

While there’s nothing in the law explicitly banning photos, the Electoral Commission frowns upon photography inside polling stations – there are, after all, quite extensive laws about maintaining the secrecy of the ballot.
Taking a picture of a ballot paper’s unique identification number is most definitely against the rules though.

  • Don’t disclose how someone else has voted

Quite simply, it’s illegal.

  • Don’t bring a zoo along

If you’re taking your dog for its afternoon walk and want to vote on your way, it’s fine for pets to come too – so long as they don’t disrupt the vote. There have been cases of voters making their way to vote on horseback in rural constituencies, which is all fine too – horses just need to be tethered up securely outside. You may want to check in with the local authorities when it comes to other animals though, there’s no specific protocol on lizard companions.

  • Do steer clear of rosettes

If you’re one of the aforementioned voters arriving on horseback, you may want to leave any rosettes behind in case of confusion. Rosettes are only for candidates and their polling agents.

  • Do come along in your pyjamas

Nigel Tonkin, the former head of administrative services at Westminster Council said turning up to vote in your sleepwear is fine, but any political party t-shirts are are no-no as they can be seen as intimidating.

  • Do correct a mistake

If you’ve mistakenly voted for the wrong person, you can return to the desk and tell the staff so they’ll be able to cancel out the ballot and get you a new one. As long as you haven’t already posted your ballot paper in the box.

  • Do avoid colourful commentary

It may be tempting if you’re not particularly impressed with the candidates on offer, but writing a message alongside your vote could lead to it not being counted. Signing it with your name is also a bad idea, as your vote will be void then too.

10:31am:

Voting started just three and a half hours ago and will continue until 10pm this evening. But the big day has already resulted in Twitter buzzing with general election discussions, which are commanding the top four trends on the social network nationwide.

10:22am:

According to Phil Foster, CEO of Love Energy Savings, the main concern in an election such as this one, where the race is so open, “is that politicians will be reduced to pathetic point scoring and will neglect the need to plan for the future”.

“Currently I feel that a coalition is inevitable and so, with this in mind, I want to see a government which sees their time in government as a partnership and not a power struggle,” he said. “I want to see policies with a future. Many SME’s are reluctant to take risks with their business because the future is so uncertain but I feel that a government with a coherent plan will give us the confidence to step outside our comfort zone and reach our full potential.”

9:52am:

And as for UKIP, here’s the headline promises.

  • Increase personal allowance to the level of full-time minimum wage earnings – circa £13,500 by 2020
  • Ensure there is no tax on minimum wage up to £13,000
  • Abolish inheritance tax
  • Raise the threshold for paying 40 per cent to £55,000 as well as introducing a new 30 per cent intermediate rate on earnings between £45,300 and £55,000
  • Ensure big corporations pay their fair share of tax 
  • Protect workers’ rights
  • Make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to tender for public service contracts
  • Prevent big businesses deliberately delaying payments to smaller companies
  • Cut Business Rates by 20 per cent for companies with a total rateable value of less than £50,000
  • Allow British businesses to choose to employ British workers first
  • Prevent big businesses deliberately delaying payments to smaller companies
  • Save £8bn a year in membership fees by leaving the EU
  • Negotiate a “bespoke” trade agreement with Europe

9:52am:

If you’re wondering what the Greens are offering businesses, here is a summary.

  • Increase the minimum wage to £8.10 in 2015 and £10 per hour by 2020
  • Make sure those earning over £150,000 a year pay 60 per cent income tax
  • Establish wealth tax of 1-2 per cent on people worth £3m or more
  • Close taxation loopholes and crack down on tax avoidance
  • Renationalise the railways and energy companies
  • Allow councils to impose extra business rates an out-of-town supermarkets to fund small local businesses
  • Crackdown on tax avoidance by multinationals
  • Create one million “well-paid” new public sector jobs
  • Commit Britain to a zero carbon future
  • Enforce a cap on bankers’ bonusesIntroduce a financial transaction tax on banks
  • Ensure that the highest wage in any business is no more than ten times the lowest wage
  • End austerity measures and create one million public sector jobs
  • Ban “exploitative” zero-hours contractsIntroduce a maximum 35-hour working week

9:49am:

Now for the policies of the Liberal Democrats.

  • Implement “strict new fiscal rules” to ensure the deficit is dealt with by 2017/2018
  • Introduce new fiscal rules which would also allow for productive investment
  • Increase public spending once the budget has been balanced
  • Double spending on innovation in the economyInvent the mansion tax and set out how it would operate
  • Add an additional eight per cent rate of corporation tax on UK banks to raise an extra £1bn a year
  • Grow a “competitive” banking sector, supporting alternative finance providers
  • Prioritise small and medium-sized enterprises for any business tax cuts
  • Devolve more economic decision-making to local areas
  • Push for a Land Value Tax to replace business rates
  • Raise the personal allowance to £11,000 in April 2016, followed by £12,500 in 2020
  • Expand apprenticeships and develop national colleges for vocational skills
  • Allow high-skill immigration to support core sectors of the economy
  • Extend reserved paternity leave from two to six weeksIncrease capital gains tax – paid on profits from second homes/shares

9:39am:

Speaking of Labour, the party’s leader Ed Miliband has just made his vote.

9:35am:

Next in line is Labour.

  • Re-introduce the 50p top rate of income tax for earnings over £150,000
  • Income tax cut for 24m people by bringing back the 10p rate
  • Introduce change to zero-hours contracts, whereby employers have to offer staff a permanent contract after three months
  • Create tax on bankers’ bonuses and a five per cent pay cut for every government minister
  • Cut, and then freeze, business rates
  • Raise 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.
  • Make sure there are no increases in VAT or National Insurance contributions
  • Establish apprenticeship for every school leaver who makes certain grades
  • Introduce a British Investment Bank

9:30am:

To make sure you can make an informed decision as someone in the business community, unless you already have as an early-morning vote, we’ll begin by summarising the business policies of all the major parties. First up is the Conservatives.

  • Cut £10bn of red tape over the next parliament
  • Give businesses “the most competitive taxes of any major economy
  • ”Replace Jobseeker’s Allowance for 18-21 year-olds with a Youth Allowance time-limited to six months – after which they will have to take an apprenticeship/traineeship or do community work to claim benefits
  • Require 40 per cent of those entitled to take part in strike ballots to vote for a strike before industrial action can be taken
  • Make it law for companies with over 250 employees to publish gender pay gaps
  • Create an income tax for 30m people by 2020, where tax would start at £12,500 a year, instead of £10,500
  • Change higher tax rate, 40 per cent, so it would start at £50,000 instead of £41,900 at a cost of £1.6bn in the same timeframe
  • Help working parents of three and four-year-olds by giving 30 hours of free childcare per week
  • Up minimum wage to £6.70 by autumn and £8 by end of the decade
  • Invest £6.9bn in the UK’s research infrastructure
  • Introduce “near universal” super-fast broadband for rural areas
  • Make sure there are no increases in VAT
  • Aim for full employment where “anyone who wants a job is able to get a job”
  • Use money saved in reducing the benefits cap to fund three million apprenticeships
  • Triple the number of startup loans to businesses to 75,000

9:26am:

But now is the time for voters everywhere to put an “x” next to the name of the candidate they feel is most befitting of an MP slot. We hope you take the time today to exercise your vote, even if it does mean battling your way through a bunch of rosetta wearing clipboard wielders.

9:22am:

Hello, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the general election. Over the last month Real Business has been bringing you news, interviews and opinion pieces – examining what business leaders up and down the country want from the next government, how different coalitions might impact on the economy and how policy has been shaped. 

Here is a selection of our favourite pieces:

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