Cameron bets the house on UK entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are the last chance for UK growth, says the PM. But is he actually going to practice what he preaches?

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
David Cameron has described supporting UK entrepreneurs as the ‘only strategy’ for growth. And even if that’s partly because he has no other ideas (or at least no money to implement them), he surely has a point.

In his address to the party's spring conference, the PM declared war on the ‘enemies of enterprise’, aligning himself firmly with the ‘go-getters’. He claims the upcoming Budget will be the ‘most pro-growth this country has seen for a generation’, promising a ‘fundamental rebalancing of our economy’ with ‘less debt, more saving; less borrowing, more investment; less dependence on financial services, more new industries, exports and trade’.

He’s also apparently planning to introduce 10 new enterprise zones, to boost some of the most deprived areas of England. With the public coffers looking about as sound as the decision to helicopter a handful of SAS into Libya, you might argue it’s not before time.

Cameron’s speech was also big on the growth and ingenuity of the British people: ‘There's only one strategy for growth we can have now and that is rolling up our sleeves and doing everything possible to make it easier for businesses to grow, to invest, to take people on.’

Somehow, we can’t see many entrepreneurs and small business owners arguing with that – it’s the same point they’ve been making for years. But will the Government actually do anything concrete about it? For instance, the PM reserved special criticism for ‘bureaucrats in government departments who concoct those ridiculous rules and regulations that make life impossible for small firms’. Since it’s usually the ill-thought-out regulations of politicians that these bureaucrats are implementing, he can hardly absolve the Government of all responsibility for that. So although he’s promising to open up public sector procurement to SMEs, we imagine most will believe it when they see it.

The Federation of Small Businesses also argues today that we’re missing another major trick, on female entrepreneurs. Ahead of International Women’s Day, the lobby group points out that women-owned businesses make up only 29% of self-employed people in the UK, despite 46% of the working population being female. This accounts for some £70bn of GDP already – but if we can get female entrepreneurship up to US levels (and see Laura Tenison’s thoughts on how that might work here), there could be 600,000 extra women-owned businesses, contributing an additional £42bn.

Speaking of wealth-creators, this month we reveal our annual list of the biggest and best: Britain’s Top 100 Entrepreneurs. Just 11 women make the list – though that’s up from eight in 2010…

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