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By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

Drowning and Waving – Red Tape is strangling business

If EU Remainers are searching for a credible political force to represent them, then perhaps entrepreneurs and business owners should be doing the same thing.

The only time we seem to hear the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition talk business nowadays is when they are criticising the behaviour of greedy executives, or the juvenile, antiquated attitude a diminishing number of Neanderthal bosses have towards woman.

Of course, these unacceptable business practices need to be called out. But where is the political voice for the army of SMEs who are the backbone of UK Plc? What about some celebration, support and praise for the thousands of innovative entrepreneurs who contribute a huge amount to the country? Where is the balance?

Weather you like or loath Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, you cannot deny that they both found time to offer the business community and enterprise encouragement during their time at Number 10.

However, it is not just the scarcity of warm words from our political masters that is lacking.

This week Downtown hosted two events with our partner High Performance Consultancy on the latest piece of legislation that is exercising the minds, and challenging the resources of businesses, big and small.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the latest skip of red tape to be dumped on businesses who have had a wagon load of bureaucracy thrown at them since the once business-friendly Conservative Party came to power in 2010.

Minimum wage, living wage, pension regulation, the scrapping of tribunal fees, business rates, the apprenticeship levy, and a more punitive tax regime are just a smattering of the changes that commerce has had to endure in recent years.

Of course, some of this legislation was inherited by the government from the previous Labour administration. Indeed, many of the measures I have mentioned are honourable and fair.

Nevertheless, the sheer weight and scale of change, plus the speed with which business is expected to react to this deluge of legislative measures, is both costly and unreasonable.

It is about time that our decision-makers started to take the temperature of business and take account of the unnecessary pressure that is being put on SMEs.

It was refreshing to have the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Lis Truss, engaging with Downtown members in Liverpool recently. It is a welcome fact that our regional leaders are always willing to communicate with those at the coal face – Sir Richard Leese meeting Downtown Manchester members on Tuesday morning.

But, at the very top of the political tree, and in the media too, there appears to be an unhealthy culture that has been established which says business is bad.

I’m waiting for a political leader brave enough to remind the nation that, without business, we’d all be up shit creek, without a paddle. Brexit or no Brexit.

Downtown in Business