Business Advice Oxfordshire

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I see that the latest batch of politicians who know what's best for us (aka The Coalition) have the same touching faith in empty rhetoric as all their predecessors.
Sure, we all know what balancing the books means: in small businesses, if you run a deficit for more than twenty minutes, you generally cease to exist - simples.
At a national political level, however, we're now going to balance the books by generating more jobs in the private sector than the millions likely to be lost in the public sector.
Now don't get me wrong: I'm all for shrinking the state.  There are far too many pen-pushers and quangos scratching around for some self-justification.  A thinning of the woods, so we can see the trees, is long overdue.  Personally I'd be a lot more draconian.
However, the idea that all this slack (or should that be slackers?) is going to be taken up by private sector growth is fanciful in the extreme.
Let us put to one side the fact that many private sector businesses in any case depend at least in part on the public sector for their own trade.  I have seen projections of one job lost in the private sector for every one in the public sector.  So, as usual, our political masters are employing a heap of wishful thinking here.
But what really grates for me, is the fact that, still, they are employing the same tired models for growth, based on the fatuous belief that corporate Britain will somehow magically extricate them from the mire.


Ever since I can remember, government policy on business and employment has been informed by the big league corporations on the one hand (witness Philip Green in his latest role) and the trade unions on the other.
Look at all the legislation that has been enacted, and ask yourself how useful it has been in helping small businesses grow.  Maternity leave.  Paternity leave (don't get me started).
It may all look fine(-ish) if you have thousands of employees, many of whom, truth to tell, barely have enough to keep them occupied all day, so filling in for absent colleagues is easy-peasy.  (Read 'The Living Dead' by David Bolchover for a full expose of this particular syndrome).
If you happen to run a small business with fewer than 10 employees, however, having two or three disappear simultaneously (while still requiring payment of course) - as can easily happen - makes life ever so difficult.  99% of the businesses in this country employ fewer than 10 people.  So why is all legislation framed on the basis of the other 1%?
Power and influence: the captains of industry use their money, contacts and lobbying power to buy their way to the table; the unions have different levers, but the same result.  Neither represent the vast majority of employers.
If every business employing 2 - 10 people (so I'm deliberately excluding lifestyle businesses like my good self) took on just one new employee, the whole unemployment issue - and the threat of double-dip recession - would dissolve at a stroke.
Now we hear that the Coalition is launching a new initiative (yeah, right) aimed at alleviating the dead weight of bureaucracy bearing down on small businesses.
The cynic in me says it will go the way of all previous 'initiatives' that promised similar outcomes, but here's a thought for the Whitehall mandarins: think about exempting any business with fewer than (say) five employees from any (yes, any) employment legislation whatsoever.  Then see how unemployment comes down.
And finally a message for Philip Green: identifying the waste in government is the easy bit (it's already been done several times before).  Getting the Whitehall Jonnies to do anything about it - even now they're circling the wagons - that's the difficult bit.
So here's a draconian suggestion: take the DTI (or BERR as it's now known) and close it down, along with all the other business generation quangos littering the regions, and all their ilk.  A start's been made with the Business Link organisations, and not before time.  Take a knife to the lot of them, and then apply the savings to simplifying and reducing the tax burden on small businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

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David Croydon

Hilltop Consultancy
Business Advice Oxford, Oxfordshire