UK Election Special

Overseas trade, access to finance and late payment are on offer from the political hopefuls this week. 

In the run up to the UK election, the leading body representing small businesses has called for more help for their members looking to trade overseas. 

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said last week that one in five SMEs (22%) are worried about the costs of exports and imports over the next five years. That was reflected in the news that Recent official data reveals that the value of UK exports decreased by 0.5% in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the previous quarter, driven by a 2.5% decline in trade in goods, while exports in services increased by 1.1%.

Worries over exports 

Tina McKenzie, FSB’s Policy Chair, is clear that International trade fuels progress and fresh ideas, and without it, our supply chain crumbles. “Small firms who reach global markets also tend to grow faster and be stronger during tough economic times,” he said. 

However, our research presents some troubling figures, so the next Government will therefore need to keep trade at the top of their agenda. Strengthening trade links with major markets like the EU and USA is key to the UK’s future as a global trading force. This would also incentivise small firms to start and continue trading. The research went on to reveal that one in four (27%) would like to see a reduction in the cost and time it takes to import and export, while three in ten (28%) say that one of the measures in FSB’s manifesto proposal for a Small Business Act should focus on making it easier for the UK to trade internationally.

Promises, Promises

As the election looms, SMEs are understandably interested in the outcome, given how it may affect business fortunes. The current government has set out its plans for smaller businesses, which includes a £4.3bn support package and ten-point plan to support SMEs as well as a commitment to resist any rises in corporation tax while also abolishing the main rate of National Insurance for some 4 million self-employed individuals. 

They also plan to ease the burden of business rates for high street, leisure and hospitality businesses by keeping the VAT threshold under review, following the recent threshold increase to £90,000. It’s also on the agenda to leverage Brexit freedoms and consider lifting the employee threshold – allowing more companies to be considered medium-sized. 

The government has also said it would retain various funding initiatives including the Enterprise and Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS and SEIS) and consider ways to ensure small businesses have greater access to government contracts.

The opposition view

Meanwhile, Labour, the party currently leading in the polls and widely thought the likely winner of the election, says it will make wealth creation its number one priority. By focusing on a manifesto of change across a whole range of areas, they pledge to support small businesses – “the lifeblood of small communities and high streets across the country”. 

But Labour is committed to the Conservatives’ plans not to raise income tax and corporation tax, but it has committed to reforming procurement rules to give greater access to government contracts as well as beefing up the role of the British Business Bank, giving them a stronger mandate to support growth and make it easier for SMEs to access capital while improving guidance and removing barriers to exporting goods and services. 

Another key area Labour intend to take action on is around late payments – ensuring SMEs and the self-employed are paid on time. It’s also Labour’s intention to replace business rates with a new system to level the playing field between high street and online retailers – the details of which are yet to be announced. 

At Paul Beare Ltd we offer a range of services around banking, VAT registration and payment and global mobility wherever you are in the growth cycle. So, if you’re starting up a business and need the help of a qualified accountant then at Paul Beare we can cover off all you need. You can contact us for help from tax and payroll to accounting and banking.