In recent media headlines, we heard all about the UK achieving record levels of employment – a fair proportion of which is attributable to small businesses. This is of course encouraging news. However, maintaining these levels means supporting businesses – particularly small businesses that are hit hard by Government policy-linked costs.

So it is concerning to find that, on average, small businesses in the UK are now spending 15 per cent more than in 2011 on a range of Government policy-linked obligations. These include business rates, auto-enrolment and Insurance Premium Tax. The findings come from research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, undertaken for the Federation of Small Businesses. It shows that the average VAT-registered UK small business is spending more than £480,000 each year on such matters. This compares to £420,000 six years ago.

For example, employment costs have soared since 2011. The minimum hourly pay rate for a member of staff over the age of 25 has risen by 29 per cent. This is set to increase by a further five per cent in April. That month will also see many small firms having to grapple with Making Tax Digital, rising employer auto-enrolment contributions and further business rates hikes.

Pot luck when it comes to holes in our roads

In 2011 the UK was ranked the fourth best place in the world to do business. Today, it’s ranked ninth.

With Brexit looming, this is not good enough. The competition to attract investment and entrepreneurs to the UK is more intense than ever. It’s therefore critical that government of all colours and at all levels does it upmost to help, rather than hinder, business owners.

It cannot be right that as soon as a business tries to increase recruitment, investment or sales activity it is lumbered with an avalanche of additional cost burdens.

The priority should be to mitigate spiralling employment costs through further enhancement of the Employment Allowance, while reforming outdated aspects of the tax system, such as business rates, which almost everyone regards as being out of date, unfair and not fit for purpose.