As the UK prepares for the upcoming general election, the National Enterprise Network (NEN) has released a policy paper urging the next government to prioritise the country’s micro and small businesses.

This follows NEN’s “Manifesto for Change,” issued earlier this year, which outlined strategies for bolstering the UK economy through support for the MSME (micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises) sector.

The latest policy paper, “Harnessing the Economic Potential of Our Small and Micro Businesses,” is based on recent research and provides a comprehensive plan for making the UK more competitive. NEN highlights that MSMEs contribute 50% of the UK’s GDP, 50% of its growth, 75% of its innovation, and employ 33% of the workforce, equating to nine million people.

Addressing Neglect of Small Businesses

Alex Till, Chair of NEN, expressed concern over the lack of targeted government strategy for entrepreneurs, start-ups, and micro businesses over the past decade. “The UK government’s role is to intervene where the market needs input – whether this be in policy, funding, or executing a long-term strategy to improve our economy,” said Till. He emphasised that NEN has collaborated with member organisations nationwide to develop a programme of changes designed to help small and micro businesses thrive.

The policy document outlines several critical steps for the new government in areas such as finance, education, social value, and support for minoritised communities. Key recommendations include:

  • Staggered VAT System: Implementing a lower VAT rate for industries like hospitality, leisure, and tourism, as well as for start-ups and micro businesses.
  • Help to Grow Programme: Relaxing criteria to include businesses with fewer than five employees.
  • Funding Access: Improving access to funding and setting targets for banks to support small businesses.
  • Entrepreneurship and Start-up Skills: Ensuring newly registered businesses are directed to both national and local support for skills and training.
  • Skills and Training Funding: Allocating funds for skills and training at key stages of business development from start-up to growth and scale-up.
  • Procurement Opportunities: Setting targets to enhance the ability of SMEs and micro businesses to win procurement contracts.

Collaborative Effort for Economic Growth

Till noted that the NEN does not expect the new government to implement these measures alone. The network of enterprise support organisations is positioned to drive economic growth by providing various services and reinvesting surplus funds to support skills development, enterprise, and employability.

The NEN’s policy report is grounded in research from its network of Enterprise Support Organisations, which are embedded within local communities and address skills gaps and business needs through training, learning opportunities, 1:1 advice, and mentoring.