The Liberal Democrats lay out their business manifesto

With the general election campaign in its last week and many voters undecided, it’s time to get down to brass tacks and look at exactly what each party hopes to offer small businesses if it wins the election.

We asked the three major parties what they were planning to do for small businesses in return for their vote, and they came back to us with what we are calling their ‘business manifestos’.

First on our list is flavour of the month party, the Liberal Democrats. With Nick Clegg’s lightning rise to a position of influence among the top three, thee party has quickly had to think more specifically about what it will offer voters if they are to take real seats away from Labour and the Tories. So, while the Lib Dem policies are still a little fuzzy, the central ideas do seem to be ones that would be of benefit to many businesses.

Accessing affordable credit

“Viable small businesses are still unable to access affordable credit. We will insist that the state-owned banks lend to viable small businesses again, by enforcing the legally binding lending agreements in place with RBS and Lloyds.”

Helping businesses find equity as well as credit

“We will connect investors with small businesses in their own region by establishing Local Enterprise Funds to provide seed capital to start-up businesses. We will also establish a network of Regional Stock Exchanges to provide equity finance for smaller established businesses as they seek to expand.”

Stabilising interest rates and public spending

“We will stabilise the public finances to keep interest rates as low as possible. The Liberal Democrats are clear that the emphasis must fall on controlling public spending, not higher taxes. We have identified over £15bn of annual savings by, for example, capping public sector pay rises, abolishing the Child Trust Fund, and scrapping unnecessary defence projects including the like-for-like replacement of Trident.”

Scrapping the National Insurance increase and reforming business tax

“We oppose the increase and will seek to reverse it. However, it would be irresponsible to promise this without first identifying matching spending cuts or alternative sources of revenue. We will also tackle unfairness in the tax system for business by reforming business rates and simplifying corporation tax.”

Reducing the burden of bureaucracy

“We will free businesses that are currently bound up in red tape. The burden of red tape impacts smaller businesses the most, as they are least able to employ the resources needed to navigate their way through unnecessarily complex legislation.

“We will take real action to manage the introduction of new regulations by ending the gold-plating of European directives, adopting a ‘one in one out’ policy, using sunset clauses and introducing independent checks on the costs of regulations before they are introduced.”

Access to public sector contracts

“We will give smaller businesses fair access to public sector procurement. Government is a major customer of business in its own right, spending £220bn per year. We will create a level playing field for SMEs by using standardised procurement requests and creating an online portal detailing opportunities.”

What are the Conservatives and Labour offering?

Read the Labour business manifesto

Read the Conservatives business manifesto