Guest Blog – By UKIP member Alan Piper, running a small hotel in the Lake District
Some years ago, after 25 years working down South, I left the City, bought a small hotel and pub in the Lake District and thought “what could possibly go wrong?”
Apart from the obvious like Blair, Brown, cheap supermarket booze and the smoking ban, my career change coincided with an unprecedented torrent of regulation which has left small businesses reeling and in particular, those that rely on employing a few staff… (sorted out a pension for your nanny, gardener, cleaner yet?) And now we face the EU referendum.
Recently I was chatting to similarly aged business owners and the EU came up. Are your IN or OUT I asked? Don’t know they said – we’re still thinking about it.
That surprised me because in my business I know some of my problems stem directly from the EU therefore getting out is a no-brainer, but they obviously didn’t. It was only when we started talking about shared concerns like staff, costs and how on earth our kids are supposed to manage when we’ve gone that I was able to open their eyes to some of the EU impacts.
Wiser heads than mine will know more detail than I but here’s two issues which surprised them and got them thinking.
Kitchen Staff. About a decade ago, most of my kitchen staff came from the commonwealth. Trained chefs, trainee chefs, gap-year guys and girls who went on to marry, or run their own businesses, run a formula 1 catering team (yes, really) and who spoke English.
A couple of years ago, one of them wanted to come back and I discovered that it couldn’t be done because now I would have to pay a minimum salary of £35,000 pa for anyone non-EU. EU-sourced staff on the other hand are paid at normal UK rates. The door to the outside world has been firmly shut and that doesn’t do my hospitality business any good at all.
Nor theirs as it turned out. Like me, they struggle to find reliable local UK staff from the pool of benefit trapped, lazy, feckless, drugged-up dreamers so have to look to Europe where they don’t generally speak much English, work hard but can only work where their skills allow. It doesn’t make their life any easier either.
And neither does VAT at 20%. Remember Hancock’s blood donor sketch? Half an arm? VAT at 20% takes your financial legs off. So why can’t it be changed? Government doesn’t want to and EU rules limit the options – although ironically some EU countries operate it in a far more enlightened way. Not here though.
Here, 5.2 million SMEs in this country are VAT registered (that’s how they are identified – the VAT registration), and God knows how many more small businesses stay “below” the VAT threshold, currently £82,000 pa.
And yet they don’t see the EU’s hand in this. Something like 15 million people (SME owners, partners & threshold avoiders) don’t know how the EU affects their business thus give any incentive to leave.
I suggest it’s about time they did.