BusinessZone hosts Q&A with minister
Business and enterprise minister Mark Prisk joined AccountingWEB’s sister site BusinessZone for a special Global Entrepreneurship Week live web chat.
BusinessZone members submitted their questions before the online chat via email and twitter, as well as on the live page during the debate, and many pushed the minister for clues on what to expect from the Chancellor's autumn statement on 29 November.
Prisk began the discussion with an update on activity around Global Entrepreneurship Week. The government unveiled the revamped Business Link website on Monday, followed by the National Consortium of University Entrepreneurs scheme on Tuesday and the £1.2m Get Mentoring network today.
Members quizzed the minister on employment, apprenticeship schemes and funding for small businesses, ranging from banks and alternative routes such as SME bonds and the government’s credit easing programme.
Prisk replied: “The Chancellor is serious about making sure we ease credit as well as make the investment in key infrastructure, including broadband. On finance, it’s worth mentioning our Finance Fitness Campaign, designed to help improve the financial preparedness of SMEs.”
Kevin Butler, consultant economist at Milsted Langdon, also picked up the finance theme. On bond arrangements and bank credit, he commented: “Of course, even if these facilities were available, would business owners necessarily be rushing out to take advantage?
“The message we are hearing from those who attend our Business Club is that firms are still very cautious about investing at the moment because of the uncertain market conditions,” he said.
“Even though the economy remains difficult, there are still good opportunities out there for well-run and innovative businesses. If an idea such as corporate bonds helps SMEs to make positive business investment decisions, then that can only be a good thing.”
Regulation was also a prominent topic in the discussion. Graham Mills asked: “When are you actually going to remove some of the red tape?”
Prisk answered that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) plans to overhaul financial accounting rules would businesses up to £600m a year and highlighted the government’s Red Tape Challenge to eliminate unnecessary regulation.
Prisk promised some “common sense changes” to health and safety regulations. But in answer to the suggestion for a VAT holiday for start-ups in their first year, he replied: “A blanket scheme wouldn’t work for everyone.”
To replay the live chat, visit the site here.