Report promises extra support for small businesses

  • Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

The Government is looking to small businesses to help drag the economy out of the mire. Development adviser Lord Young has compiled a report which recommends the expansion of financial support and motivation for small companies.

One of the measures he recommends is extending the eligibility of business start-up loans to the over-30s, so that more mature entrepreneurs can grab a slice of state funding. He also wants to make it easier for small companies to bid for £230 billion worth of government contracts. He doesn't make it clear whether many of these small companies grabbing lucrative government cash will have Conservative MPs on their boards, as has been the case in the past.

The report is called Growing Your Business and manages to strike an uneasy compromise between the Conservative ethos of small businesses thriving and the party's usual bugbear: state funding. "We have one of the best environments in the world for the creation of new firms," Lord Young said. "We want to help and encourage all those new firms to now take on their first employees and grow. Growing our smallest businesses would transform our economy - they are the vital 95%."

Lord Young's vision is of half the UK businesses taking on an additional member of staff and reducing unemployment to almost zero. It seems a fantasy in the face of UK business realities, in which labour costs are increasingly outsourced to dangerous sweat-shops in Asia or reduced to a minimum by the use of low-paid part-time workers on temporary contracts or unpaid "work experience" interns supplied by the Government.

Lord Young's frontline experience as a minister came in the Thatcher government in the late 80s when he was employment minister at a time of massive unemployment in the UK. His reputation for plain-speaking (or crass insensitivity) was underlined in 2010 when he suggested that the "so-called recession" meant that many people "had never had it so good".

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