Small businesses have this week called on Labour and the Conservatives not to use them as political pawns as the two parties made grandiose pledges to support businesses through the economic downturn.

“We believe it is important that the two main political parties do not indulge in political point- scoring and work together to ensure small businesses are given the support they need,” said Forum of Private Business CEO Phil Orford.

Association of Convenience Stores CEO James Lowman added that though he welcomed some of the Conservatives’ proposals, there were other issues that required urgent attention, in particular, the national minimum wage. “The area of crime, specifically Fixed Penalty Notices, also needs urgent attention and revision,” he added.

The calls came as Lord Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, revealed that small businesses supplying the government, NHS trusts and local authorities would receive their payments within 10 days of delivery.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” Lord Mandelson said. “We know they are worried about what is happening – and we must do all we can to help them through these difficult times.”

The pledge followed calls from Shadow Secretary for Business Alan Duncan to cut the rate of employers’ National Insurance.