Elizabeth attended a hustings debate held by Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce where local business representatives quizzed the general election candidates for Stratford-on-Avon on their plans to help businesses in the area.
Elizabeth spoke around Lib Dem policy for business, growth and the economy.
Economy and Stability
The biggest threat to businesses still the economic recovery. Labour still no clue on the nation's finances, announcing a shopping list of spending yet flirting with the idea of cutting various taxes. We only have to look at the hatchet job they did on the idea of a mansion tax, where the income raised has been promised to fund at least 3 different things! On the other hand, the Conservatives, despite claiming to stick to the plan actually have announced to go much further. Ideological cuts to vital services and investment will hurt the economy just as much as over spending. Lib Dems want to get balance right, have been open and honest with a fully costed manifesto and a plan to balance the books by 2018.
Tax and Rates
Lib Dems favour devolution to LEPs for business rates. This would offer protection from national governments dictating and give a greater say for businesses. Lib Dems will offer stability. Under our plans there will be no further increase on VAT, corporation tax, or NIC.
Capacity and Infrastructure
In the West Midlands and particularly Warwickshire, we need the capacity and infrastructure to thrive. HS2 will be vital in increasing capacity but we need more emphasis on improving and increasing local transport infrastructure. Local transport issues are plaguing Stratford and it is time for 'actions speak louder than words'. Broadband upgrades and connectivity, particularly in rural areas must be a priority. A Skilled workforce is vital. Lib Dems have delivered on apprenticeships, now more needs to be done on changing attitudes and supporting young school leavers with plans such as the young person's discount for bus travel, as opposed to demonising them as Labour and Conservatives are doing by focusing on policy around cutting benefits for under 25s.
Making Work Pay and Enabling the Workforce
Lib Dems believe in the need to be focused on areas government should be regulating, not minimum wage which rightly should be set by independent low pay commission. Lib Dems would see even further rises to the Income Tax threshold (raising the threshold to £10,000 in this parliament was a Lib Dem policy, on the front page of our 2010 manifesto; David Cameron and the Conservatives said it couldn't be done). The money back in the pockets of taxpayers are particularly of benefit to workers in this constituency where careers in industries such as tourism and agriculture can have low wages. Lib Dems understand that making work pay ensures a happier, more productive workforce. We are also pleased to be championing mental healthcare support. Sick leave is a big cost for employers, especially for smaller businesses. Currently 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health, and the waiting/treatment times experienced by patients are unacceptable. By investing in bringing mental health care back up to standard of physical health care, such as minimum standard waiting times, it will also benefit business as recovery times improve.
Lib Dems believe that an EU referendum is again a question of stability. There is no question that pulling out of our biggest export market would be a disaster for British business. Lib Dems in government have made it law that there will be a referendum next time major treaty change is on the table, creating stability for business as there is no immediate investment risk. Meanwhile we are making the case for reform, but doing that effectively by being active in Europe and ensuring that British interests are defended. Many of the problems to businesses from EU regulation is due to the complexity being added at Whitehall, which needs to be addressed.