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Chancellor has an opportunity to recover the government’s position as champions of the “John Lewis economy”

Autumn Statement wishlist.

Employee ownership offers an escape route for so many challenges facing the government  The businesses tend to perform better, particularly in recessionary times.  Wealth created is shared amongst employees, not channeled into the pockets of tax avoiding executives and we now find that employees tend to be happier and healthier thus easing the burden on our health and benefits systems.  What’s not to like?

Indeed, this Government has been vocally supportive of employee ownership yet the only concrete proposal has been the widely derided “rights for shares” scheme.  With only two measures, the Chancellor has an opportunity to recover the government’s position as champions of the “John Lewis economy”.   These measures look at business succession and access to finance.

We need more business owners considering selling to employees as an exit route.  The Nuttall report identified the lack of knowledge from professional advisers such as lawyers and accountants as an obstacle to wider adoption.  By introducing a tax incentive to business owners who sell to their employees, such as exists in the US, would instantly create sufficient noise to ensure that employee buy-outs are on the table alongside trade sales, IPO and MBOs when it comes to discussing exit options for owners.  In this way, we would see more of our SME and family firms remaining in their communities providing sustainable employment and skills for future generations.

Even the most successful employee owned businesses report problems with  access to finance. Mainstream investors want to see a planned exit date preferably at a significant premium to the value of their investment. The employee-owned business, with its desire to maintain the jobs and investment in the local area for the long term, can find this incompatible with their plans. Similarly, one of the trends we are seeing on bank funding is that even where it is available, banks are looking to get loans paid off in full in 5 years, whereas in the past they may have offered a 10 year period. Now we are seeing some banks taking an interest in supporting employee owned models, but it’s still too local to make the step-change required.  We need a lender that considers long term sustainability over short term return and the Business Bank could be that vehicle.

The government has been telling us all year how much they support employee ownership. It’s good for business, for the economy and for individuals.  Make it happen, Mr Osborne. 

Carole Leslie is an Employee Ownership Specialist

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.