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The business policies political parties need to embrace

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With just over half a year to go before the next general election theres a huge amount at stake for small businesses. We at Real Business wanted to take a look at the issues politicians could tackle to help your business thrive. 

Business rates are a big problem 

Business rates are the biggest issue raised by the small businesses I talk to. Its hard to see how rateable values could take profit into account, but the current calculation method makes life difficult for start-ups and those competing with bigger firms. 

The best approach for the government is likely to be promoting more rate relief. This approach has been taken in Scotland, where they continue to increase the threshold under which businesses are viable and actively promote the scheme, as we noted in this story last week

The European Unions good for business

In some political quarters this is a moot point. Theres simply no evidence that will convince UKIP or certain elements of the Conservative party staying in the EUs a good idea. Last weeks report from the University College London showed more or less definitely weve all benefited from recent EU migration, yet was met with derision. 

Whos going to be our champion David Cameron claims to want to stay in the EU, but appears to be doing everything in his power to continue sleep walking into an exit. The Liberal Democrats have lost face and Nick Clegg’s defence is stilted and largely ignored. 

Lets promote alternative funding

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bills move to require banks that refuse SME loans to provide advice on alternative funding options was a great idea and alternative funding providers see it as a really useful avenue to expand their offering. 

This is a step forward, but the government can do more to promote alternative finance and the use of the use of the British Banking Insight platform, which provides peer reviews of finance providers.

Energy prices are too high

Energy prices are a big problem for businesses. Government moves to set prices set some very unhealthy precedents, but something needs to be done and Labours promise might be the answer. Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary, claims Labours price freeze will save the average small business 5,000 a year and, while it might not offer a long-term solution, a show of strength combined with promotion of tariff switching could scare providers into setting more reasonable rates.

England needs a replacement for Business Link

Business Link, which provided a first stop shop for Englands small business seeking enterprise support, was shuttered in 2012, but no replacement has been established. Its crucial to have a sign posting services that can ensure entrepreneurs get the advice they need. This will likely mean speeding up Local Enterprise Partnerships establishment of Growth Hubs, but promoting a central contact point to work with the region and national services would be a great idea.

Skills and training are a problem

Hiring personnel with the right skills and training is still a big issue. In the Federation of Small Business Voice of Small Business Index access to skilled staff was ranked above access to finance, regulation and employment law as the biggest barrier to expansion

Schools and colleges have an important role to play in ensuring young people have the functional skills for business. SMEs can be encouraged to make the excellent, but informal, on-the-job training into accredited qualifications. And the government can continue to support and promote apprenticeships. 

What do you think  

Were interesting hearing your thoughts on what political parties should consider including in their 2015 general election manifestos; leave a comment below or contact us at editors@realbusiness.co.uk with your thoughts on what they could do to help your business.

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