‘Where is the help for start-ups?’

Last week’s mini-budget promised new Enterprise Zones but the CEO of The Women’s Organisation in Liverpool says there is too little help for those looking to start a business. Tony McDonough reports

Maggie O'Carroll
Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive of The Women’s Organisation


Liverpool business leader Maggie O’Carroll says there is a huge gap in the Government’s new supposedly pro-business focus with little support on offer for start-ups.

Last Friday, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled what has been called a ‘mini-budget’ in the House of Commons. He took what many see as a £45bn tax-cutting gamble to kick-start growth across the UK.

One of the new centrepiece policies was the setting up of Investment Zones. Established in 38 areas of the country, including Merseyside and Cheshire, the zones will offer tax and planning advantages to businesses within them.

Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive of The Women’s Organisation in Liverpool, gave a cautious welcome to the new zones. However she added that while they may be advantageous for existing businesses, they offered little incentives to start-ups.

For more than two decades The Women’s Organisation has helped tens of thousands of people take the path to self-employment. Maggie said: “The Government is calling the zones an “easy way to grow your business, increase your sales and reduce distribution costs” – and this is certainly needed.

READ MORE: The Women’s Organisation named as awards sponsor

“The question is, are we doing enough to enable enterprise and stimulate start-up? I believe the answer is no.”

And she was critical of plans to tighten the rules about job search obligations for people claiming benefits. She added: “The changes announced for people receiving benefits strike me as out of touch and punitive, especially given most part time roles are filled by women with children.

“For many, if not most, childcare is completely out of their budget, how then can they be expected to work more hours? I’d have liked to have seen further measures to help mothers and families who stand to be the most affected by the cost-of-living crisis – VAT reductions on food and clothing, for example, would have been most welcome.

“Also, by reducing Universal Credit and imposing somewhat restrictive job search commitments, I fear we could be penalising people currently receiving benefits who have ambitions to start a business or get into a job.

“I can’t help but feel that in stark contrast to the assistance we’re offering to existing and growing businesses with initiatives like the Investment Zones, we are making it harder for aspiring entrepreneurs, by in fact offering less support and less flexibility.”

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