Government needs to be closer to business

It’s a claim that many MP’s and Ministers make when giving business related statements, “I understand business because my family own a small business”, “I’m an business person myself and bring excellent negotiating skills with me”, “I’m from a business background” and so on.

They seem to wear this business badge as a form of endorsement, “believe in me, I’m one of you” it makes them seem more connected to business and to legitimise their actions.

The problem in my opinion though, is that despite these claims, government and the politicians who represent us have never been more detached from business in the UK than they are now, and this is a big problem!

Business drives the economy it pays the taxes that fund the government, it pays the wages that pay further taxes it is the income driver, but business has changed, the days of joining one company and getting in 40 years’ service before receiving a gold watch then retirement have long gone. Redundancy no longer carries the same stigma and people often move jobs and careers, learning new skills at a variety of stages through their working life. There is more choice, some people decide to work freelance, to work across continents, or to have more than one part time job.

The world of work is changing rapidly as is the economy that these jobs are a part of, and I feel that government is not keeping pace with this change, they still think in a one size fits all way about business, so small business is just big business only smaller, which most certainly isn’t the case.

I attended the rural services conference a couple of weeks ago and it was brought home to me very strongly that many of our Forum members in the rural communities have a completely different set of issues and opportunities than city and urban based businesses. The rural economy is a complete mystery to the likes of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, they promise things like Broadband connectivity without realising how important it is and why! The Rural economy, (the rural tourist industry is worth £21 billion alone), just like restoring the UKs high streets should be on the government’s agenda and its industrial strategy but they aren’t, they are on the agenda but at the back of the queue. Brexit will remove many of the protections and safeguards for farmers, with politicians having nothing to replace them, 40,000 farms have disappeared this century and many of those remaining face tough times, the cost of living in rural economies is already £2,600 more than in cities and their residents have fewer police officers, post offices, banks, GP’s, dentists and see many of their local pubs closing not because they are uneconomic but because they are worth more for redevelopment. Younger people are leaving for the cities while this century 1,300 villages have been absorbed into towns, the rural idyll is a myth these days.

The Freelance economy based around the creative and Tech industries is also one with a completely different set of issues and needs, but the IR35, off payroll tax that HMRC are looking to introduce, has the potential to decimate the freelance workforce that currently supplies their services to Banks, with Barclays already deciding to take all freelancers off their books if this tax is applied.

My point being that our politicians need to be a lot closer to today’s businesses, either by getting out there, talking and working with them or bringing more knowledgeable business people into government circles.

One final point that highlights this is the current Brexit chaos, our politicians seem very focussed on a no deal Brexit, achieving it or avoiding it, because of the impact on business and the economy. If they had a better and clearer understanding of UK businesses and how they work, they would realise that the vague, confused and contradictory messages being given to business at the moment and the length of time the whole process is taking, is doing as much damage to the UK economy as any no deal scenario!


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