Business Extra: News in Brief

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The Independent Online

Women shun politics

Only 1 per cent of female entrepreneurs would consider standing as an MP, compared with 10 per cent of their male counterparts, according to research for the business price comparison service Make It Cheaper.

The findings perhaps help to explain why the new Parliament has only 142 women among its 650 MPs – including the Home Secretary, Theresa May – a rise of only 2.5 per cent on the previous one. Moreover, women account for fewer than 20 per cent of the ministerial posts in the coalition Government – well below the figures for Spain and Sweden, where they fill at least half of cabinet jobs, and Germany, France and the United States, where the figure is about a third, according to the Centre for Women and Democracy.

The survey suggests the results may be connected with the finding that twice as many female entrepreneurs as their male counterparts said that maintaining work/life balance was their biggest challenge. However, it was also found that a significant proportion of female business owners claimed to have no interest in politics, with similar numbers saying politicians did not have the power to instigate change and failed to understand the real issues faced by businesses.

Growth can become taxing

The tax burden rises sharply as businesses move from micro to medium-sized, “creating a significant barrier to growth”, according to the Institute of Directors (IoD). It says the Government will have to tackle this issue if it wants to foster an enterprise culture and replace the jobs that will be lost due to public sector cuts.

The IoD calculates that the typical micro-business (employing five people) pays four months’ worth of profits in tax. This rises by another three to six weeks for larger businesses, meaning that there is a disincentive to grow and a diversion of profits away from reinvestment in the business, so damaging growth prospects, it claims. Richard Baron, head of taxation at the IoD and author of the report Tax – the weighty burden, published on 10 June, says that the UK corporation taxes of 21 per cent and 28 per cent may not look high, but they are not the only taxes that businesses face. There are also national insurance contributions, business rates, fuel duties and others, depending on the industry.

“The high road to renewed economic growth is to allow businesses to retain more of their profits for investment, and not do anything that would increase the burden,” he adds.

Boost for employment

Two programmes aimed at providing a significant boost to economic growth and employment through helping small and medium-sized businesses access more than £64m in funding have been launched in London. The initiatives – Gateway2Investment and Gateway2Finance – will be delivered by a consortium of private-sector experts led by the accountants Grant Thornton and including Pembridge Partners, a team of entrepreneurs and investors that helps businesses grow. The plan also has the support of such well-known entrepreneurs as Brent Hoberman, co-founder of lastminute.com, and Deborah Meaden of television’s Dragon’s Den.

The consortium is looking for 4,500 ambitious firms that want finance to accelerate growth and will work with more than 100 investment groups around the country and overseas in order to help them secure the funding. Last year, the same group helped SMEs in the capital raise nearly £14m in equity funding.

ICT scheme to cover all of UK

A scheme that helps businesses select premises equipped to meet their information technology and |communications needs is to be rolled out across the country after a successful pilot funded by Yorkshire Forward, the regional development agency for Yorkshire and Humber. The initiative – ict active – also helps property owners and managers to compare their ICT facilities with those of competitors and so use it as a differentiator in the crowded market for commercial space.

Under the scheme, properties are surveyed in terms of their infrastructure and the ICT services they offer. Once a property achieves |the standard, it is added to the www.ictactive.net database so that prospective tenants can use it to help choose their ideal workspace. Liz Wallis, managing director of ict active, pointed out that businesses of all sizes made extensive use of technology in their businesses and so needed a robust ICT infrastructure. “[The] ict active [scheme] is designed to make it easy for businesses to find buildings that can meet their needs,” she added.

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