What the parties are offering North East business
A week may be a long time in politics, but it feels like the last general election was barely a fortnight ago. The Prime Minister surprised us all with a General Election, hoping to secure a mandate for her negotiations with the EU and perhaps take advantage of Jeremy Corbyn being Labour leader to secure a larger majority.
Both main parties hurriedly published their manifestos, which given the timeframe are somewhat light on detail, but do show that both parties are going into this election on very different ideological foundations to those that they stood on in 2015. This begs the question, now that Labour has moved from Social Democracy to full blown socialism and the Conservatives have abandoned rigid adherence to free market principles for a more centrist platform, what are they going to do for the North East?
Businesses create jobs, especially small businesses growing to become medium and large-sized companies. In fact, almost all of the net growth in employment can be attributed to companies scaling up, and what the North East needs is policy that supports just that.
Money for business investment, schools and skills and the infrastructure for people to get to work all play a part in growing the businesses that create jobs. On top of this there are other barriers that effect all businesses, such as the burdens of legislation, regulation and taxation.
Both parties are promising increases in the Living Wage, and while this isn’t popular with everyone in the business community, I believe it will drive up productivity and living standards in the North East – and ensure that everyone benefits from business success, not just shareholders and senior managers.
One thing that could make or break our region’s economic future is missing from both manifestos, the devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD). Scotland already has the power to set this, which when they cut it will pull travellers away from Newcastle and will almost certainly cause real damage to our regional airport. We need the same power as the Scots to guarantee our commercial connection to the rest of the world, especially now that Teesside has a mayor determined to revive Durham Tees Valley Airport. To do this we need two things, the next Government to agree to let us set APD and a devolved administration with the competency to do so.
The Conservatives have long been the party of small business and have a record of delivering, both in terms of support and in creating an economy that has allowed so many more businesses to start trading. Their pledge to cut red tape is a standard line, but the promise to make 33% of Government purchasing come from SMEs will be welcomed – provided they deliver it!
The Labour manifesto contains some interesting proposals, which if offered by a more moderate incarnation of the party might gain some traction. Scrapping quarterly tax reporting for the smallest firms and reintroducing the lower rate of Corporation Tax aren’t without merit. Having proposed the creation of a billion pound investment fund when it looked like the North East would elect a Metro Mayor this year, I was also interested to see their proposal for regional investment banks.
There are many reasons people start small businesses, some want to grow them into large companies, some want to meet a particular need in their community, others want to be their own boss. However as an Angel Investor it is clear to me that Labour’s proposed increase in the main rate of Corporation Tax will make ambitious smaller companies think twice about scaling up, and the impact of this tax hike would be felt across a wide footprint of businesses.
If Britain sees a Trumpesque election night shock and Jeremy Corbyn takes up residence in Downing Street, the increased tax burden on firms will see them tighten their belts, cut investment and increase their prices, a big negative, especially for the SMEs that are the cornerstone of our North East economy.
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF JEREMY MIDDLETON
CONTACT: Chris Rowell on 01325 363436
Notes to Editors:
Middleton Enterprises Ltd is a private investment company that has made a substantial contribution to the North East’s economy by investing in and providing business advice to entrepreneurial businesses.
During recent years, it has supported a number of North East businesses, generally from start-up, usually taking a minority stake and offering strategic advice to support growth.
Mr Middleton is a high-profile entrepreneur and philanthropist based in Newcastle. He started his career as a Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble before working for PriceWaterhouseCoopers as a Marketing Consultant. He co-founded HomeServe, now a FTSE 250 company which operates in the UK, the USA, France, Spain and Italy, and remains a shareholder with a seat on the Executive Committee. He is a director at North East based energy and water consultancy company Utilitywise PLC.
He was a Board Member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) from 2011 to 2016 and was Chairman of the North East LEP Investment Fund.
Mr Middleton has carried out a range of sponsored fundraising for a variety of charities which to date include the North Pole, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, The Haute Route, Mount McKinley, Mount Elbrus and a cycle ride from London to Paris.
In 2012 Jeremy was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for Services to Politics and Charities.« Back