Should Governments try to help businesses or leave us alone?

Governments are an easy target for blame when life is difficult for businesses.

The previous UK incumbents were accused of exacerbating the conditions that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown, while the current regime’s efforts to improve conditions for business have hardly won high praise.

No business can exist in a vacuum and all benefit from so-called “public goods” such as infrastructure and the education system, but recently John Timpson, chief executive of Timpson the family-run shoe chain, was quoted as saying that the best way government can help businesses is to leave them alone.

Certainly various government initiatives, such as stimulating bank lending to SMEs, have been a resounding failure.  For example, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme only pays out when the banks have exhausted all other forms of security, including directors’ personal guarantees. Not surprisingly the scheme has failed to attract many takers.

Calls for a review of business rates have fallen on deaf ears and tinkering with the planning regulations in a bid to help revive faltering High Streets has so far yielded no noticeable results. The new Help to Buy scheme designed to stimulate house building and revive the construction industry brought forth dire predictions of a potential new housing bubble.

It’s clear that these days few politicians have significant experience of the world outside of Westminster so is John Timpson right?  Tell us what you think.

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