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13 November 2015

Weekly Brief 45 - Friday 13 November 2015

Major win for the FSB as the Government announces faster broadband for all

The FSB commented on the Government’s announcement that all businesses will have access to a faster broadband connection by 2020. The FSB has long called for a Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps and is pleased to see the Government setting this as the minimum broadband speed.

Latest employment figures show the jobs market is positive

The FSB commented on the latest numbers showing that 177,000 more people were in work and 103,000 few people were unemployed in the third quarter of 2015. FSB National Chairman John Allan said: Recent FSB research has found that although small businesses continue to increase headcounts, their confidence is not as strong as in previous quarters. This is likely to be related to a range of upcoming policy changes including higher than expected minimum wage increases, auto-enrolment deadlines, and changes to how dividends are taxed”.

HMRC announces major restructuring plan

The FSB commented on the HMRC’s confirmation of plans to close 170 tax offices and create 13 new regional centres. FSB National Chairman John Allan said: “Over the long-term, this modernisation programme must bring substantial benefits and efficiency savings. In the short-term however, members will be concerned that the closure of these tax offices will simply compound existing problems. The Government needs to reassure business disruption is kept to a minimum”.

Prime Minister’s speech focussed on pushing EU to be more competitive

The FSB commented on Prime Minster David Cameron’s reform plan for the European Union. John Allan, FSB National Chairman said: “All EU decision-makers should ‘Think Small First’ before they regulate, and we would like to see the negotiations embed that principle to boost economic growth. The FSB has written a formal letter to the Prime Minister David Cameron to raise the EU issues that are of most concern to our members”.

FSB sets out key EU reforms in formal letter to the Prime Minister

Prior to the publication of the key goals for the UK government seeking to renegotiate the relationship between the UK and the EU, the FSB wrote to the Prime Minister to set out the areas of pressing concern to small businesses. The FSB welcomed the focus on protecting the Single Market and called on both the UK Government and the EU to ensure laws such as the new proposed Data Protection Regulation do not impede this. The FSB would also like a closer focus at simplifying VAT to make it easier for small businesses to engage in cross border trade. Other important issues include the reform of the REACH Directive and maintaining the opt out from the Working Time Directive.

Parliamentary Briefing

Small Business Minister Anna Soubry MP referenced the FSB during an oral evidence session on productivity with the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. She said organisations like the FSB play an important role in signposting government support schemes to the business community. Separately, during Business, Innovation and Skills oral questions in the House of Commons, Ms Soubry praised the work the FSB do a local level through information to small firms.

Mike Cherry, FSB Policy Director gave evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills inquiry on the digital economy. He highlighted the importance of digital connectivity and digital skills. And he discussed the improving quality of service available to small businesses.

Chartered Association of Business School (CABS), Annual Conference 2015

The FSB attended the CABS annual conference on 9 November, in Manchester. The FSB was  interested to hear about how business schools, and the higher education sector in general, were supporting and collaborating with small businesses in the wider context of driving economic growth and global competitiveness.

Deregulation in the tourism sector    

As part of the Government’s deregulatory push, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are interested in hearing about any regulations which are holding back growth in the tourism sector. Please contact Policy Advisor Will Black if you have any suggestions.

Join the Infrastructure Committee

The Infrastructure Policy Committee is looking for new members, especially those who have experience in the transport sector. If you have any questions about the role, or would like to express an interest in joining, please contact FSB Policy Advisor Will Black

Join the Food sub-committee

The Rural Affairs Committee is establishing a sub-committee to better inform our policy focus on food and farming issues. This would be an ad hoc, virtual, discussion forum.  If you have any questions, or are interested in joining, please contact FSB Policy Advisor Will Black

Making switching easer

The Department of Business Innovation and Skill are interested in consumer's experience of switching providers in the telecoms, banking and energy sectors. If you have had a positive or negative experience of switching providers of different services and would like to be used as a case study, please contact FSB Policy Advisor Will Black

Careers and Enterprise Fund launched

The Careers and Enterprise Company launched a £5 million fund on 27 October to support activities that directly result in more and higher quality careers, enterprise and employer engagement activity across England.  The deadline for proposals is 4 December 2015 and awards will be made from February 2016.  A webinar is planned for 2.30pm on 16 November and further details of the Fund, including the assessment criteria for applications and an online application form, are available here.

Recently launched: the Pre-pack pool

This is an expert reference group established on the recommendation of Theresa Graham, in a review for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. Pre-pack administrations help save jobs and sustain entrepreneurial activity. However, there is concern among creditors that pre-pack administrations lack transparency especially where the business or assets of the business in administration are sold to someone connected to the insolvent business. The new pool will bring much needed transparency by reviewing and commenting on a Pre-pack application before it can go ahead. This should mean creditors can have more confidence in a pre-pack if an insolvent business they are creditor to applies for one.