The Leap 100 February Poll – Climate: Politics

Ahead of May’s General Election, the overriding message from Leap 100 businesses to government is loud and clear: whoever you are, tax us less and be more flexible on immigration. This month, we asked them how concerned they are about the election, which party’s policies will best aid their company’s expansion, and what changes from Westminster would most improve their business’s prospects.

Reflecting the wide range of companies surveyed, responses were varied. Yet perhaps unsurprisingly, given Ed Miliband’s recent spats with business leaders and concerns that Labour doesn’t understand entrepreneurs, respondents overwhelmingly felt that the Tories have more to offer Britain’s fast-growth businesses – only 7 per cent preferred Labour.

And there were obvious trends. Tax – or rather less of it – came up trumps as the most important change government could make, with almost a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents citing the need for lower VAT and business rates. One respondent put Ukip as the party with the best policies to aid their business’s expansion simply because “it is the party that has engaged on the lower VAT argument”.

Several others highlighted the need to keep the Enterprise Investment Scheme and Entrepreneurs’ Relief. Reports in January that a Labour-led government would consider lowering the lifetime limit on the latter set off alarm bells among fast-growth firms. Ed Bussey of content creator Quill said that “Entrepreneurs’ Relief is a critical incentive for entrepreneurs to take on the huge personal and financial risks involved in starting new businesses. It also draws entrepreneurs from outside the UK, bringing high-value jobs and innovation to the UK economy.”

But how to fill these jobs was a common concern. Chiming with what has long been a complaint of UK firms, The Leap 100 believe that labour market reform is urgently needed, that visas must be eased to attract talent, and that current immigration policy is the key issue hampering growth prospects. One respondent commented that absolute targets on foreign worker numbers should be abandoned, replaced with “a balanced set of migration controls that support the continued growth of the economy.”

Significantly, just two companies cited the need for a clear commitment on a referendum on Britain’s EU membership as salient.

While the majority of The Leap 100 said support from government is important to their business’s growth, many were concerned by excessive state interference. Nearly 60 per cent said that red tape is a barrier or significant barrier to their expansion. Danvers Baillieu of Privax commented, however, that, while red tape and government regulation certainly have the potential to stifle growth, they aren’t doing so currently.

But while government policies are clearly important to Leap 100 companies, many are less worried about the impact of politics on their business’s expansion. A third are unconcerned about the impending General Election.

This article first appeared in City A.M. on Thursday 26th February 2015. You can view the full City AM article here.