The Leap 100 May Poll – Climate: Election

What The Leap 100 wants from the new Tory government.

For the majority of The Leap 100, the outcome of the General Election was an enormous relief. Almost four out of five believe that a Tory majority was the most positive possible result for their business. Most think it will mean that entrepreneurs will continue to be supported, with tax reliefs like SEIS and EIS maintained, and the fast-growing and innovative fintech sector bolstered further.

Peter Bowles, founder of Original BTC, summed up the sentiment of many: “I hardly ever bet, but I couldn’t believe that British voters would throw into the wind the definite progress the last government had made in getting the economy on the mend and our confidence up”.

But despite positive noises, The Leap 100 think there’s a lot more work to be done. The coalition supported entrepreneurs, but those businesses have grown – now they want support to expand. As Dan Wagner, founder of Powa Technologies, commented, “the new administration must provide the necessary relief and tax breaks to those companies who are establishing in the UK to enable them to reach new heights. Greater incentives for companies with high-growth potential will make them stay in the UK or choose to establish their headquarters here.” Nearly 20 per cent of The Leap 100 stressed the need for further tax reductions – cutting business rates, VAT and National Insurance. The latter, pointed out one co-founder, “is a tax on job creation”.

Wagner says that a more equitable approach to business rates would help smaller physical retailers: “They are fighting to keep our high streets alive against the big online players. These online giants do not have the same rates to pay as smaller retailers with brick and mortar stores, and have bigger pockets to pay the little they are made to.”

Incumbents versus upstarts was also an issue when it comes to public sector procurement. Several respondents said that it needs reviewing, as contracts are still going to larger businesses.

Now, the focus is on the EU referendum. Almost 60 per cent of The Leap 100 are concerned that the In/Out referendum will damage their company’s growth. Several underline the uncertainty about when the referendum will be held, and the terms of renegotiation, as problematic. “The potential impact on staffing, exports and tariffs is dangerously uncertain,” says Paul Statham, chief executive of Condeco.

But he continues, reflecting the sentiment of others, that he’d like to see the government prioritise slashing the volume of regulation that comes with EU membership: “as a company that both trades and hires internationally, red tape can be a frustrating barrier to achieving growth”.

Leap 100 members are split when it comes to whether cuts to immigration will damage their company’s growth. But a number argue that Brexit must not jeopardise freedom of movement for workers. Indeed, several Leap 100 leaders suggested that it must be made easier for fast-growing businesses to hire qualified non-EU employees.

This article first appeared in City A.M. on Thursday 28 May 2015. You can view the full City AM article here.