In his home town of Bristol the new Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, introduced his priorities for small business and an Enterprise Bill which is aimed at simplifying and clarifying the business environment in this country.
During his speech Javid was keen to emphasise his entrepreneurial roots and commitment to UK small business:
“If you believe in the values of hard work and enterprise, then we think along exactly the same lines. If you’re behind a shop counter, behind the wheel of the van, behind a new invention then we are right behind you. If you’re striving to do what my parents did a generation ago – here in Bristol or anywhere else in Britain- build a business, create jobs, improve the prospects of your children then you have my utmost respect, and you will have my total support.
“Small businesses are Britain’s engine room and the success of our whole economy is built on the hard work and determination of the people who run and work for them. As Business Secretary I will always back them and, in my determination to get the job done, one of my first steps will be to bring forward an Enterprise Bill that helps them to succeed and create jobs,” Javid said.
“As part of our long-term economic plan, we will sweep away burdensome red tape, get heavy-handed regulators off firms’ backs and create a Small Business Conciliation Service to help resolve disputes.”
Javid was keen to demonstrate that recent reforms have already started to have an impact. For example; simpler audits for business, less bureaucracy for house builders and developers, fewer employment disputes reaching costly tribunals, child-minders no longer have to self-register as a food business, hundreds of live music and community events now exempted from entertainment licensing and thousands of regular businesses no longer face health and safety inspections.
The key priorities he outlined in his speech were:
To tackle European regulation head on, pressing EU institutions to reduce needless burdens on businesses, ensuring EU law is implemented in a way that doesn’t put UK business at a competitive disadvantage. Indeed for the first time, the actions of regulators will be counted towards achieving the overall £10 billion in cuts. He stated that the government wants to partner with business to get the evidence to make this happen.
An extension and simplification of the rule known as “Primary Authority” to allow more businesses to get advice on regulation from a single local council. This advice must then be respected by all other local councils reducing the time and cost to business of having to obey multiple masters. Today, more than two-thirds of the businesses taking advantage of Primary Authority are small businesses. It frees them from inconsistent and confusing red tape and reduces their operational costs and allows them to focus on expansion.
To tackle what he described as the bullying behaviour of larger businesses when it comes to late payment, changing payment terms and unfair charges. Late payment cost British business £19 billion in 2008 and this year it is set to exceed £40 billion. On average the amount owing to a small business is more than £30,000 which can have a massive impact on small business cashflow and lead to insolvency. During the last Parliament, legislation was introduced requiring the UK’s largest companies to report on their payment practices. This will have a big effect when it comes into effect next April. Furthermore the Prompt Payment Code was strengthened to introduce a maximum 60 day payment term and promote 30 days as the norm.
A consultation later in the year on the proposed widening of powers for representative bodies to act on behalf of their members to challenge grossly unfair payment terms. Along similar lines he promised to set up a Small Business Conciliation Service, similar to the Australian model, to settle disputes between small and large businesses, particularly over late payment practices. The purpose is to avoid expensive legal costs and maintain business relationships by reaching mutually satisfactory agreements.
Other proposals include a review business rates and from April next year, no employer will pay national insurance for apprentices under 25.
Click here for the full speech.