Measures aim to help small firms
Measures to help small businesses, including faster broadband and moves to tackle late payments, have been announced by the Government.
Ministers marked today's Small Business Saturday by committing to help smaller firms win public sector contracts as well as reduce energy bills.
The announcement is aimed at removing some of the barriers faced by small businesses, such as accessing faster and better broadband connectivity and making it easier to switch energy suppliers.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "I meet with small businesses regularly who tell me about what Government support works well and what doesn't. Through our commitment to small firms we are directly addressing that feedback, freeing them from unnecessary burdens, providing more finance and improving access to advice and support.
"In particular we are tackling the issue of late payment, which can threaten the survival of otherwise healthy businesses. We are enforcing prompt payment through the entire public sector and asking what more we can do to get credit flowing in the private sector."
Enterprise and skills minister Matthew Hancock said: "Small businesses are the lifeblood of the British economy and responsible for nearly half the job creation in the UK. That's why we are removing barriers to growth and supporting them, so that they can create jobs and compete in the global race."
Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "The Government is right to say that Britain is a great place to start a business. Now it needs to become a great place to grow a business too. That means ensuring that fast-growing and dynamic small companies get access to the capital they need to expand, and access to practical business-to-business support to break into new markets around the world."
Terry Scuoler, chief executive of the manufacturers organisation the EEF, said: "Small businesses are a vital part of the economy and we need to make it easier for them to invest, grow and create the highly skilled innovative jobs our economy needs.
"The more we can grow into larger medium size companies, the better for UK plc. In order to enable this we need to examine every means to removing some of the barriers they face, improving the business environment and making it easier for them to fulfil their potential."
John Cridland, CBI director general, said: "Small and medium-sized businesses are at the heart of communities across the UK and are the job-creating dynamos of the recovery.
"Small Business Saturday is a great way for people up and down the country to back their local high street in the run-up to Christmas and I would encourage everyone to get involved."
Labour leader Ed Miliband will pledge to help small businesses, adding that shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna had brought the idea of Small Business Saturday to the UK from America.
During a visit to south London, h e will highlight pledges to cut business rates for 1.5 million small business properties, freeze energy bills and be tough on late payers.
He is expected to say: "Labour is changing so that we can go into the next election as the party of small business and enterprise.
"One Nation Labour: offering real help to firms on energy costs and business rates, with plans to reset our energy market, open up capital to invest in regional economies and get ready for a digital future, cracking down on late payment and equipping our young people with the skills that they and you need to succeed."
David Cameron marked the day - an initiative designed to encourage people to use local shops and businesses - by visiting a family butcher.
Downing Street said he bought 10 lamb cutlets at A Cobb in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire - near the Prime Minister's official country residence Chequers, where he is expecting his mother for dinner this evening.
Many MPs took to social media to promote businesses in their constituencies.
"Small businesses are the lifeblood of our country - essential for building a resilient, sustainable economy and a central part of my long-term economic plan for Britain," Mr Cameron said.
"They account for 99 in every 100 businesses and keep more than 11 million people in work so this isn't about sentimentality, it's about the future of Britain, creating jobs and turning our economy around.
"I'm determined that we back them in every way we can - that's what today is all about and that's what this Government is about."
Mr Miliband bought gifts for his sons, Daniel and Sam, at the Bookseller Crow as he toured shops in Crystal Palace and bread and ham from nearby Good Taste Food and Drink.