Well, I am sure anyone that access to any form of social media website or news outlet have seen the heart warming images of some of our favourite, or should I say well know, politicians, taking to the streets across the country in aid of Britain’s first ‘Small Business Saturday’. From Dave Cameron buying lamb cutlets to dish up dinner for his mum to Ed Miliband starting the Christmas shopping early for the boys, the images and tweets of our political leaders have not gone amiss. However, as I was looking at the eager grins of these politicians turned noble local shoppers, I felt it was only right to question why such action was being taken, as, with everything in politics, the images put forth can often be a mirage concealing prevalent issues within society.

business saturday

So, for all of us who perhaps may have seen the images but are not quite sure what has happened and why, what is Small Business Saturday? Small Business Saturday, which was on the first Saturday of this month – 7th December, is a day dedicated to encouraging people across the country to shop locally and support small businesses, appreciating their niche qualities and the importance of the maintenance of them within our local communities. By having one day focused on doing this, it aims to create a larger customer base for these businesses, encouraging people to explore the businesses local to them that they may not have previously visited.  It is an idea that has been adopted from across the pond and has been running over there for three years and claims to have boosted revenue by amounts beyond their forecasts, with the first Saturday in December chosen as it is the day, in theory, in which most people start their Christmas shopping. Although, in Britain, the day is yet to have widespread sponsorship, the principles behind its implementation are the same.

All in all, it sounds pretty good right? We have seen reports from local papers embracing the day, with one woman in Croydon expressing the pride and joy she had in giving Ed Miliband a grand tour of many of the independent businesses in her local area, commending politicians like Ed for supporting the cause. However, as we all know in politics, it is often difficult to take things at basic face value, even if it is the nearing the season to be jolly.

So, what is the government actually doing for small businesses? This was my first question when I read about this day and saw the pictures and cheerful tweets. Well, to be fair to the Chancellor, they appear to be practicing what they preach on this issue, that is, if his plans come to fruition in the way we hope they will. As was announced in Osborne’s Autumn statement, the start up loans scheme will be expanding; with it predicted to help serve 50,000 extra people. However, the most significant part of the statement for small businesses is the cap on business rates at 2%, avoiding the 3.2% predicted rise based on September’s RPI measures of inflation. Osborne will also be allowing businesses to pay their rates in monthly instalments and pledged high street support with the introduction of a ‘reoccupation relief’ – giving a 50% reduction in rates for businesses moving into vacant premises. Some have said this is welcome news and a step in the right direction to encourage and evoke the entrepreneurial spirit of budding British businessmen and women.

However, it seems the Chancellor still has some work to do. Despite these efforts, a large majority of the public remain unconvinced that the Chancellor and the Coalition understand small businesses, with just 26% in a poll feeling the Coalition did have some understanding of smaller businesses. This is a sharp contrast from the 66% who feel the Coalition understands banks and big businesses. This is something the Coalition clearly have failed to address and need to if they wish to win the heart of the electorate, with public perception of government policy and aims often being just as important as the realities of the policies being implemented when people flock to the polling stations.

Perhaps then Small Business Saturday will go down as a slightly bitter sweet venture then, at least for the Coalition, with, despite their efforts, people still failing to see them as helping aspiring small business owners. Perhaps this is due to the other cuts in public spending announced in the statement that will inevitably affect all of us. But personally, I feel if perhaps, if the Prime Minister himself could avoid being spotted or perhaps just resist the temptation of visiting Waterstones on this very same Saturday meant to be flying the flag for small businesses, perhaps people would see their efforts as more genuine, rather than just a cheeky photo opportunity.

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