More than 5,000 small business owners sign open letter backing Tories

Concerns raised over letter's origins after evidence links meta-data to Conservative Party HQ

The Conservatives election campaign has received a boost, in the form of an open letter from over 5,000 small businesses praising its economic plan.

Printed in the Daily Telegraph, the business owners commended the party’s commitment to “making sure Britain is open for business”, and how they’d managed to tackle the deficit by “keeping interest rates low and inflation down”.

While many parties have included measures to support small businesses in their manifestos, the letter said the Conservative’s “steps to lower taxes, reduce red tape, simplify employment law and get the banks lending” had helped them during the tough recession.

5,025 businesses from across the UK, including Scotland, Yorkshire, London, the South East and the West Midlands signed the letter.

The news comes as the prime minister has pledged to triple Start Up Loans and invest in broadband for small businesses, with ambitions to see 600,000 new businesses started every year by 2020.

According to official figures there were 346,485 businesses started in 2013, and the Conservatives claimed there are now 760,000 more businesses than there were in 2010.

The party encouraged companies to sign the letter on its party website, which concluded: “We would like to see David Cameron and George Osborne given the chance to finish what they have started. A change now would be far too risky and would undo all the good work of the last five years.”

However, the letter has come under scrutiny from deputy editor of Buzzfeed Jim Waterson, who discovered that the meta-data on the Telegraph’s website showed that the online version of the letter had its origin from within Conservative Party HQ.

The letter, signed by small business ambassador Karen Brady, also includes signatures for Huw Stephens, director of the Barbury shooting school South-West and Tony Seaton, associate director at Blue Sky Corporate Finance West Midlands. On Twitter, a spokesperson for Aarum Solutions has claimed that nobody from the company signed the letter, and asked to be removed immediately.

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna has said the Conservatives had overseen an increase in business rates of around £1,500, which Labour are intending to freeze.

He added that Labour want to champion all businesses, but with constrained finances, it was most sensible to help 1.5 million businesses with rate cuts.

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