Commentary and opinion on national and regional politics by Seema Malhotra

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A Labour Budget - and a budget for Britain

Against my own expectations, I actually found myself quite excited and optimistic following Alastair Darling's budget today. It was a Labour budget - and a budget for Britain. I was particularly listening out for what Labour will do to support small businesses and entrepreneurship. Not least because SMEs are the real backbone of our economy, and have continued to suffer through the recession through lack of credit and variable speed with which Government backed support has reached them. Not to mention the gender aspect - women are increasingly the drivers of small business growth; the small businesses of today that may well break through to be the big businesses of tomorrow. And the Budget indeed did not forget small businesses. Just some of the measures include a £2.5bn package for small business to boost skills and innovation, a one year business rate cut from October to help 500,000 companies, a doubling of the investment allowance for small firms to £100,000 and a doubling relief on capital gains tax for entrepreneurs. However Labour's challenge - and indeed the Government's challenge, will be that this support reaches SMEs - as indeed does bank lending - as fast as possible. And not just the businesses that shout the loudest, but the entrepreneurs from diverse communities who may be less connected to Business Link and other networks with less understanding of how to access the support available. The Government must ensure that it monitors how funds are being used, and that businesses in more deprived areas which often do much more to skill up the local population do not miss out.