Entrepreneurs are the engine for economic growth - they need as much encouragement as we can give

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 17th, Mar

We’ve all met the natural entrepreneurs - the Richard Bransons of this world who start wheeling and dealing before they are old enough to even buy a drink.

However, for most people starting a business can be a daunting leap into the unknown - they need nurturing and encouragement and a belief they are supported.

Through the chamber’s Spark Up accelerator programme we have seen first-hand the transformational effect the right environment can have on an initially nervous and unsure would-be entrepreneur.

In times of austerity, with rafts of people still at the sharp end of spending cuts, the Government have a responsibility to support those taking matters into their own hands – many of whom have been left with little or no other option.

It is why Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget provoked such a reaction from the business community last week.

Proposing to raise National Insurance contributions for self-employed people as well as cutting dividend tax-free allowances may have seemed, on paper, like sound fiscal ideas - but it sent out a terrible message and I can’t help but wonder if The Chancellor had said it out loud before pitching it to the nation?

I’m incredibly proud to operate in Liverpool – it is a city bursting with great business ideas and bold, bright, enterprising people. And in times of economic uncertainty we need entrepreneurs and risk-takers more than ever. Sole traders have the capacity to prosper and create businesses that offer employment and that process is the real engine for growth in our society.

Liverpool accountant and Liverpool Chamber member Peter Taaffe said this week: “I can’t remember the last time a Budget stirred quite so much emotion.”

It’s an apt comment because starting and nurturing your own business is a very emotional journey. When people get past their initial enthusiasm the everyday worries kick in - will I be able to pay my mortgage, support my family, just make ends meet?

But you know, some good could come from the past week. One of the positive things to come from the Budget was a promise to review the business rates system, which is fundamentally broken and needs to be fixed.

Maybe the controversy over the now-scrapped NI rises will spark a wider debate on how we value entrepreneurship in our society.

We need to take a look at business and employment taxation to ensure the system is competitive and equitable - and encourages the entrepreneurial dynamism this city and this country so badly needs.

Jenny Stewart

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