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What the election means for Britain's SMEs

For once a General Election may not be entirely focused on politically-loaded issues, because the major parties are finally recognising the importance of Britain's SMEs to economic growth.General Election Rosettes

Minority government

With the latest polls suggesting the Tories have only a narrow lead, it's hard to see anything but a minority government taking control of Westminster after the election, so another coalition can't be ruled out. Although this may yet mean much shuffling, compromising and the occasional disappointment, there appears to be cross-party support for many pro SME policies.

Regional development

Devolution and regional development are set to be key issues. The Lib Dems have already promised local councils Devolution on Demand, and while Labour and the Conservatives will be cautious of how they promise any shift of power to the home nations, both major parties have made commitments to transfer power, and significant budgets, to cities in the North. What may factor into how devolution progresses, and where the main debates head after the election, is how much support the SNP and Plaid Cymru receive.

Regulation and rates

The good news is that the coalition's 'one-in, one-out' rule for new business regulation looks set to continue, with Labour in support of maintaining this approach. The Conservatives are even going one step further, pledging to introduce a deregulation bill to cut health and safety requirements, and a new rule requiring government departments to justify new regulations with a double cost saving.

Both Conservative and Labour are also promising to clamp down on late payment practices by FTSE 250 (Con) or 350 (Lab) companies, as are the SNP. Finally, Labour promise to cut business rates in 2015 and freeze them in 2016; while the Lib Dems and Conservatives only promise a review.

Funding and support

The Small Business, Employment & Enterprise Act is already set to create "challenger banks", and an online database of alternative funding to help SMEs refused a loan by the Big Ten banks. Both the Conservatives and Lib Dems have pledged to continue this path and expand access to lending. Labour are expected to continue to expand the British Business Bank and set up a Small Business Administration similar to the US body, which supports small business growth.

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