SME report slams Labour

The government will come under fire from the English ICA next week for failing to lift the heavy regulatory burden it says is stifling small businesses and their export efforts.

A major research report, ‘SMEs: Going Overseas’, due to be released next Wednesday, says the Labour government has done little to improve the environment for small businesses since it came to power, and argues that more needs to be done at both UK and European Union level to relieve the regulation burden.

The report was prepared by the institute’s enterprise group and was based on a survey of over 200 members.

Respondents provided a host of examples of the stifling regulatory regime, particularly relating to taxation.

The report states: ‘Other messages for the government include reducing interest rates and the value of the pound, and improving education and information to assist export growth.

‘Certainly, SMEs who are exporting want more support and a better regulatory framework in which to operate. The feeling is that government could do far more and little has really altered in the last year.’

Typical comments made by respondents includes: ‘There needs to be an improvement in the hostile and confrontational attitude of ‘planners’ – VAT and NIC officers who seem to delight in putting every possible obstacle in the way of progressive business.’

Clive Lewis, head of of the institute’s business bureau, said: ‘The survey shows there are small businesses that would export but need better signposting to the help and advice available.

‘There is not a need for large numbers of new services, but SMEs need clearer information about where they can turn for help and advice.’

Confederation of British Industry president, Sir Clive Thompson, also raised concerns about regulation at the CBI conference.

He said: ‘There is a real danger that the burden of tax and regulation will move business away from its real business; wealth creation.’

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