Stuart Harris Associates boss offers food for thought to PM’s chief adviser
Stuart Harris, managing director of his own accountancy firm Stuart Harris Associates, has written to Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, to present his agenda.
Emailing Cummings via the email address 'firstname.lastname@example.org', and copying in his local Chipping Barnet MP, Theresa Villiers, Harris began by cheekily suggesting he should be made the new Minister for Small Businesses.
Harris took a critical stance of the decision to select Sutton and Cheam MP Paul Scully as the new minister for small businesses after last week’s cabinet reshuffle, citing his track record.
Harris wrote: “My serious point is that nobody actually knows who the current Minister is, and/or what they’ve done. This is completely unacceptable given how many small businesses there are in the UK, and how much of a driving force they are in the UK economy.”
Swiftly moving on to his agenda, Harris suggested that the tax system and business rates and rents must be reviewed, adding that they have been “ignored by successive governments”, spanning both Conservative and Labour administrations.
Harris said: “Everyone knows that we have to pay our taxes. However, the current system is over-complicated and not fit for purpose.
“A simpler system would be fairer to all and probably raise more in taxes overall”.
With regards to business rates and rents, Harris said that a “simpler and fairer system” will not only “benefit everyone” but also “rejuvenate Britain’s high streets”, the woes of which have been well-documented.
The government does have plans to more thoroughly review high street business rates later in the year and have already pledged to provide some relief, but Harris’ words are to be thought about in the run-up to that.
Of course, whether the review is carried out on time will heavily depend on the status of the coronavirus outbreak by that stage.
Explaining his reasoning for contacting Cummings, Harris wrote that his objective was to “prompt genuine and practical solutions and to try and cut through the bureaucracy and red-tape”, rather than hoping to “provide all the answers”.
He added: “I am not an intellectual or an academic, but I do think that I have an ounce of common sense.”
Appealing to Cummings and Villiers, Harris went on to say: “My clients tend to be individuals and/or family businesses, and I include myself in that description.
“We tend to be the ones affected when the government introduces poorly thought out legislation, and/or where nobody has looked at the bigger or long-term picture.
“I believe that I can offer constructive criticism and suggestions which could improve everybody’s lives and the UK economy”.
Only time will tell as to whether Cummings will take Harris up on his offer of a “meeting”, but government could do far worse than heed the voice of industry at this time.