Local procurementThe issue
Local councils spend £88 billion per year on procurement. Yet many do not know where or what size business they are trading with, so local communities are losing out. We polled all local councils to see how and where they
Read More spend their money.
The survey revealed some interesting and often positive findings,with many councils indicating that over half their procurement spend went to small and medium sized businesses. However, of the 148 local authorities that responded, we found more than a third (38%) of councils do not actively record the location of their spending and almost a half (49%) don't know size of business they trade with.
We want to see a more accurate and public record of spend so that it can properly inform strategy and decision making. This will help to embed and understand the link between procurement and local economic development.
Public sector contractsThe issue
Winning a public sector contract has been notoriously difficult for small firms due to red tape and cost barriers, making it difficult to compete fairly for contracts. We have welcomed reforms in central government to ensure
Read More small firms receive payment at the same time as prime suppliers. But our 'Voice of Small Businesses' survey shows significantly more FSB members do business with local councils, education institutions and the NHS, than those who supply to central government departments or agencies. For the Government to make a real difference it needs to not only get its own house in order, but to ensure that the whole public sector is adopting these changes.
What we have done
Due to our lobbying in England, the pre-qualification process has been reformed and a single free portal for all central government contract opportunities over £10,000 has been launched and is compulsory across all Government departments. The 'Contracts Finder' portal is now completely free for any small business to find Government contracts. Find out how it works in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
We would like to see a clear policy set for the whole public sector to ensure 25 per cent of contracts go to small businesses - a Government aspiration. Government should re-think the current approach of grouping contracts with the default assumption that it will bring efficiency savings and require the wider public sector to adopt wherever possible. The standardised pre-qualification questionnaire and 'Contracts Finder' portal should be mandated across central government.
Business RatesThe issue
Business rates are the third biggest expense for many small businesses after rents and wages. It is the only tax not related to the ability to pay, so it places a disproportionate burden on small businesses.
What we have done
We have been instrumental in getting Small Business Rate Relief introduced and the level of relief that can be claimed doubled until at least 2013. Find out how it works for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Local authorities have a responsibility to help businesses by automatically identifying small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief. To help grow the economy, we are urging local authorities to promote the other forms of existing rate relief's available for small businesses and use their powers to award discounts to those businesses that need help.
Government should reconsider the move to re-introduce 100 per cent empty property rates relief on all properties, irrespective of size, at a time when many properties cannot be let and some small business property owners are struggling.
Local Enterprise PartnershipsThe issue
The importance of small businesses to local economies is unquestionable. For this very reason they need to be central to the priorities being set by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). The success of existing small
Read more businesses and new start-ups will be what fuels economic growth across local areas. LEPs that fail to recognise this will not succeed in leading successful economies. Find out how it works in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What we have done
We have successfully achieved representation on a number of LEPs across the country, with FSB members and staff taking part in numerous boards and groups, taking forward work to support small businesses in the LEP area.
There is room to improve the amount of recognition LEPs have on small business issues. The LEPs should take advantage of local business groups to understand the business constituencies they represent.
Businesses are telling us that the planning system is overly complex and costly and is a barrier for businesses wanting to grow. Research from our 'Voice of Small Business' survey panel show that just over half (53%) of
Read more small firms that have applied for planning permission over the past two years said that the rules and process were overly complex and 38 per cent said that the process had higher costs than anticipated. We are concerned that small businesses are put off from investing time and money into expanding because of drawn-out, complicated planning applications.
What we have done
We have lobbied for town centres to be protected by ensuring councils prioritise the protection of town centres and high streets by considering the impact of out of town developments. The National Planning Policy Framework contains a presumption in favour of town centre development. We have also influenced amendments to the Localism Act so that local business owners can have more say about planning in commercial areas through new neighbourhood forums.
We want to see Government and local authorities make the planning system clearer, easier and more affordable for small firms. A simple step such as changing planning applications for minor building works will mean small businesses can grow or diversify their business more easily.
Fraud and e-crimeThe issue
The National Fraud Indicator shows that fraud costs the UK economy a massive £73 billion per year - £18.9 billion of that are costs to small and medium sized enterprises. Cybersecurity is an important part of the UK
Read more National Security Strategy with some Government estimates claiming that it costs the economy £27 billion a year.
Our research shows that fraud, including e-crime, costs businesses up to £2,900 a year. A particular concern for members that want to grow their business online is hacking and card not present fraud.
We are working with the National Fraud Authority and the Fraud Advisory Panel to raise awareness of fraud prevention guidance available to businesses and signpost them to Action Fraud, a reporting centre, when they have problems. We are also calling for local police to develop their capability to deal with e-crime and fraud as well as signpost businesses to effective support. With the knowledge that data gathered will lead to targeted investigations and prosecutions as a result.