The past two weeks have seen the three major political parties in the United Kingdom gather for conference season. The Liberal Democrats elected to host their conference in Brighton, Labour in Manchester and the Conservative Party in Birmingham.
From a small business point of view, each conference produced some interesting sound bites and announcements. In Brighton, Vince Cable, Business Secretary, announced that £1 billion worth of funding would be made available for the previously announced Business Bank, an organisation which would be set up to lend to small and medium sized enterprises. Speaking to the conference on September 24, he said:
"The government understands the frustration felt by many small-and-medium-sized businesses around securing credit, especially from the big four retail banks. Many new, promising, growing companies simply can't get the loans they need to expand on reasonable terms. Manufacturers, exporters, startup companies are struggling to finance growth."
Meanwhile, speaking at the Labour Conference in Manchester, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls highlighted the need for small business finance, saying: 'So many businesses are struggling to raise finance so they can survive until the year end.' During his keynote address, Ed Miliband also expanded on the subject, commenting that many banks did not have the best interests of their customers at heart:
"We need banks that serve the country not a country that serves its banks.
Think about Alan Henderson, the small businessman I talked about earlier on. He wanted to be able to go into his bank, look his high street manager in the eye and know that he was working for him. Instead he found a bank more interested in playing the international money markets. That's why he was ripped off."
Earlier this week at the Conservative Party conference, David Cameron and George Osborne also addressed the issue of SME finance and the actions being taken to support SMEs. Osborne commented:
"We're reforming banking, so it serves our economy and supports families and businesses."
Meanwhile, David Cameron struck an optimistic note in his keynote speech from a business point of view, highlighting the importance of SMEs on the road to economic recovery. "We need businesses, of every size, in every type of industry, in every part of the country, investing and taking people on. We're getting our entrepreneurial streak back: last year the rate of new business creation was faster than any other year in our history…We're making things again."
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