6 Mar 2011

Cameron declares war on ‘enemies of enterprise’

The way forward for Britain is to tackle the “enemies of enterprise”, David Cameron tells the Conservative Spring Forum in Cardiff. But do the country’s small business entrepreneurs agree with him?

Speaking at the Conservative Spring Forum in Cardiff, the prime minister dismissed calls for spending cuts to be eased as “the cowardly way”.

He said he would be watching banks “like a hawk” to make sure they gave loans to small firms.

Mr Cameron said Chancellor George Osborne’s budget later this month, on 23 March, would be “the most pro-growth for a generation”.

He told the conference: “There’s only one strategy for growth we can have now, and that is rolling up our sleeves and doing everything possible to make it easier for businesses to grow, to invest, to take people on.

“Back small firms. Boost enterprise. Be on the side of everyone in this country who wants to create jobs and wealth and opportunity.”

I’m going to watch those banks like a hawk and make sure they deliver for Britain’s small business men and women. David Cameron

Mr Cameron promised he would use the government’s “power and clout” across the world to open up new opportunities for business.

“While there are contracts to be won, jobs to be created, markets to be defended, I will be there,” he said.

And in an apparent reference to his recent controversial trade visit to countries in the Middle East, Mr Cameron pledged: “If it’s making sure Rolls-Royce engines are in the world’s planes, I’ll be there. If it’s making sure skyscrapers in the Gulf are designed by British architects, I’ll be there.”

On Saturday, George Osborne hinted to the Conservative Spring Forum he would postpone a planned rise in fuel duty to counter soaring petrol prices.

‘Homogenised high streets’
But is David Cameron’s prescription for rebuilding the economy one that Britain’s businessmen and women agree with?

For Channel 4 News, Jane Deith spoke to Kate Evans, who owns two dress shops in London, and dotcom entrepreneur Alex Halliday.

Kate Evans said it was really important to encourage smaller, more individual and independent businesses in new developments around the country.

It’s also about business rates, which arae currently almost 40 pence in the pound. Kate Evans, dress shop owner

“There’s a great danger that you’re getting a homogenised high street, with the only businesses who can step up and afford the rents and the terms and the business rates being the bigger multiples.”

But she said it was not just tax and red tape that were the problem for small businesses. “I think it’s partly rent levels. I don’t know if there’s something that could be done as a subsidy and an encouragement to businesses who have under a certain amount of outlets (…) I think it’s also business rates, which are currently almost 40 pence in the pound.”

Access to the right people
Alex Halliday told Jane Deith that taxes were a factor – but by no means the most important one. “For us it’s about getting access to the right fundraising, the right investors that are aware of the industry. They need to be incentivised to really want to take the risk to invest in high-growth companies.

For a business like ours, taxes are one of maybe 10 factors that we consider. Alex Halliday, dotcom entrepreneur

“And it’s about having access to the right people as well. We currently have a staff of 30 highly specialised engineers. We wouldn’t be able to locate just anywhere in the country because it’s really about where those people reside, and we have to most close to them.

“So although rates and tax are important for certain businesses more than others, for a business like ours they’re probably one of maybe 10 factors that we consider on a daily basis.”