‘Taxes are crippling us’, Hoveton small firm boss tells minister

They were classmates at Wymondham College until their paths branched in very different directions.

Thirty seven years on, Peter Rathbone, who has gone on to run a small steel fabrication firm in Hoveton, was challenging government minister Norman Lamb about the crippling level of taxation blighting small businesses.

The north Norfolk MP visited Broadland Products on the Stalham Road industrial estate today as part of the Forum of Private Business's 'Business Buddy' scheme designed to put politicians in touch with firms in their constituency.

Mr Rathbone and company secretary Malcolm Batley highlighted the fact that in the past financial year nearly �150,000 of their �689,000 turnover had been taken by the exchequer in various taxes.

They had been forced to reduce their workforce from 23 to 11 after the financial crash in 2008 and there was now no incentive to expand and take on extra workers - even though they had planning permission in place for two new units.

'We are being bled dry by taxation and are making just enough money to survive,' said Mr Batley.

Mr Lamb, the employment relations minister, acknowledged that the lack of a clear incentive for entrepreneurs to build up their businesses was a 'crazy situation', but he said there was no easy fix due to the �150bn deficit inherited by the government two years ago.

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He said changing course and cutting taxes was fraught with danger as it made the country vulnerable to attack by the international money markets. 'If they cease to believe we are a safe place to invest, borrowing costs will soar,' he said.

Ruling out such a 'plan B' he endorsed his Lib-Dem colleague Vince Cable's suggested 'plan A plus', sticking to deficit cutting plans but, at the same time, looking for ways to increase investment and stimulate growth.

In the longer term, the government needed to increase skills among young people and refine the tax regime to make Britain a more attractive place to do business.

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