SMEs in Wales will be “at the very heart of economic development” under a Tory government, according to its new strategy for small businesses.
Launching the strategy yesterday, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies unveiled a collection of measures that he said would create “the most small-business-friendly government Wales has ever seen”.
Davies added that if his party were to come into power in May’s election, he would ensure the government included a dedicated small business hub to support SMEs, which, he said, had been failed under the current leadership.
The proposals would task the hub with assessing the impact of economic policies on small firms, and see it reporting to the National Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee on an annual basis.
Among other measures outlined in the small business strategy, the Welsh Tories would implement a rate relief for small firms, ensure they have better access to finance, support them in competing for public sector procurement opportunities, and improve broadband provision and speed.
Launching the strategy, Davies said: “I want to lead the most small-business-friendly government that Wales has ever seen.
“It is clear that the Welsh Labour Government has failed to take the measures necessary to empower local businesses and to deliver a more prosperous economy, and our strategy would place small businesses at the very heart of economic development in Wales.
Supporting Wales’s lifeblood
“Wales is a nation of shopkeepers, and those small firms are the lifeblood of the Welsh economy; which is why they need support to develop and grow.
“A small business hub would give small firms a powerful voice in policy development, with a dedicated team established with the sole purpose of representing their interests.
“We would also extend business rate relief, removing at a stroke a key obstacle to job creation and prosperity.
“Business rate reform would help small businesses to stay afloat, expand and create new jobs, ultimately bringing life back to our increasingly deserted high streets.”
Shadow economy minister, William Graham, added: “We have a comprehensive strategy to boost small businesses in Wales. We want to help those firms to take on new staff and to access public sector procurement opportunities; we want a fair system of business rates which give a level playing to smaller companies; and we want to improve access to finance for small firms.
“Ultimately, this is further evidence that the election is a choice between changing to secure our economic security – or sticking with the same old ideas which just aren’t working.”
SME rate relief for Plaid Cymru
Plaid Cymru’s shadow economy minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said: “Plaid Cymru goes into this election as the most business-friendly party in the country. Our ambition is to make Wales the best place in the UK to do business.
“Small and medium-sized enterprises make up 99 per cent of all businesses in Wales. They form the backbone of the Welsh economy and our policies recognise their vital contribution to creating jobs and generating growth.
“A Plaid Cymru government would implement our long-established proposals on business rates by increasing rate relief so 70,000 small companies pay no business rates at all. On top of this, we would introduce tapered relief for another 13,000 firms whose rateable value is between £10,000 and £15,000.
“We have also have plans to set up a Bank of Wales in order to improve businesses’ access to finance. This would help plug the estimated funding gap of £500 million a year faced by Welsh SMEs.”