Independent retailers beware; it’s become clear in recent weeks that the political parties are on a charm offensive. This last fortnight has seen a range of policy initiatives targeted at helping small businesses through the tough economic times. While we must retain a healthy dose of cynicism, we should see this as an opportunity to make the case for a truly small business friendly agenda.

So what have we been promised? It starts with Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, who has secured financing from the European Investment Bank aimed at ensuring that banks continue to lend to small businesses. He also weighed into the growing concern about the delay in payments from bigger retailers to their suppliers.

The Conservatives, not to be outdone, have called for a VAT holiday, along with a 1p cut in National Insurance for firms with fewer than five employees.

I was able to discuss this first hand at the Conservative Small Business Survival Summit, hosted by David Cameron. As I made clear then, I welcome this political focus. However, the bigger challenge is in the less high-profile and short-term measures, such as creeping regulation on businesses.

At this time, government should be thinking more carefully about costly policy measures that are untested. Perhaps the most pertinent example is the tobacco display ban, a multimillion pound experiment that would be funded overwhelmingly by the independent retail sector.

Adding to this worry are commitments on increased burdens on employers, whether it be National Minimum Wage increases or compulsory pension contributions.

We have heard too many promises to be carried away by the political grandstanding. Our message is that what’s really needed is a commitment to reducing the burden on small businesses across all policy areas.