What else are the Tories doing to get the business vote?
There’s a number of projects. First of all, we’re looking at helping small shops. We’ve got a back bench group working with all the different players in the small shops arena – the Federation of Small Business, BERR, the various players in terms of the small shops as well – looking at business rates, looking at parking, and looking at all the things that are making it tough for businesses to compete. We’ve been working on this now for six months, and we’re going to publish the final proposals next month.
The Richard Report (recently-released report suggesting ways to make access to business support easier) is also an important issue because it covers things like government contracts. This government’s been about giving out little grants here and there to small businesses, but we want make sure it’s easier for small businesses to get government contracts. It’s much better to give businesses contracts than dole out grants.
We’ve also asked a group led by (media tycoon) Sir David Arculus, which includes specialists, small businesses, and lawyers, to look at what makes Whitehall keep generating regulation as a first option. We want regulation to be the last resort, not the first option, so we’ve asked them to show how we can turn the machine around so it isn’t constantly generating more and more regulation.
In many ways, Ken Livingstone championed the cause of small businesses by offering them a majority of the contracts for the 2012 Olympics. Will this continue under Boris?
Boris is obviously only a few weeks into his job, and I know, having spoken to him and people like the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), that Boris has a real passion for making sure small businesses in particular are heard.
The FSB were unhappy at the way Ken refused to participate with them. I think Boris is open to the idea of making sure small businesses can compete. He’s making sure small businesses are there at the top table – not just the big boys. I think he’s going to be a real breath of fresh air.
Finally, as a former entrepreneur, what advice would give to small business owners who are struggling during the credit crunch?
It’s always down to cashflow. I started in 1991, which was pretty rough, but I’m an optimist. I think if you can weather the storm in the difficult times, then your business is robust for all times. Cashflow is king – so make sure you eek out the money that you do have, and make sure you’re really confident that what’s going to come in comes in when it’s meant to.