Business Finance: It’s time to recognise the region’s fertile middle ground, says Keith Ferguson

Keith Ferguson of BDO.

Keith Ferguson of BDO. - Credit: Archant

Party conference season is officially over but the canvassing, speeches and endless photo opportunities in the run up to next year’s General Election have only just started.

One of the favourite phrases for many a politician will refer to the “squeezed middle” – the middle classes that have been caught by the rising cost of living and stagnant wage growth.

But the term “squeezed middle” could equally apply to the business world. We’re not hearing enough about that.

The UK’s mid-sized businesses aren’t headline-grabbers. They aren’t punchy start-ups, celebrated for their smallness and entrepreneurial zeal. Nor are they sizeable PLCs, attracting attention without too much effort (whether they want it or not). Mid-market companies are the squeezed middle of the business world. We believe they are stuck in a policy and profile black hole – too large to benefit from policies tailored to small business, but too small to win the attention that FTSE firms command. This has led to our mid-market being overlooked and undervalued. This is especially true if you realise how much mid-sized businesses already contribute.

Medium-sized businesses – those with a turnover between £10m – £300m – account for less than 1% of all firms in the East of England, yet they create 25% of jobs in the region and contribute a huge £97bn in revenues and £30bn GVA every year. In short, they punch far above their weight. With the right polices in place, however, they could be punching harder.

With the political conference season having fired the starting gun in the race for next year’s election, we have a rare opportunity to persuade all parties to factor the mid-market into their policy thinking.

This is why we have created our own Mid-Market Manifesto – a set of policies designed to help unlock the potential of the mid-market.

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In total, BDO has come up with 28 policy recommendations that are rooted in reality and address a range of areas from tax and business finance, to retail, manufacturing and skills and education.

As a set of policies, they focus in on three areas: helping businesses thrive in a domestic market; supporting them in expanding and exporting abroad; and thirdly, encouraging the Government to take a more open-minded approach to its own procurement policy.

Not all our ideas will be taken up, but we hope that a potential government would at least consider their merits and encourage the mid-market – the unsung heroes of our economy – to help drive the region’s economic regeneration.

We encourage debate on this topic and we want you to get involved. Please do get in touch to discuss in more detail or to receive a copy of our manifesto.

: : Keith Ferguson is a partner at the Ipswich office of BDO.