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18 August 2017

Weekly Brief 34 – Friday 18 August 2017

A wrap of the week’s small business news from FSB’s Westminster Press, Policy and Public Affairs Office. To sign-up for Weekly Brief emails, please use this link

Concern over bank branch closures 
Dozens of Barclays bank branch closures across the UK were announced this week, leading to concern from the Federation of Small Businesses. Responding, National Chairman Mike Cherry emphasised that when times are tough, there's "no replacement for help from a known and trusted bank branch contact", adding that the closures would heap further uncertainty on to small businesses. Mike Cherry, who was quoted by Reuters and The Sun, called for an improvement and standardisation of Post Office services if they are to be considered a viable alternative. 

Response to post-Brexit position papers 
The government released the first two of their Brexit policy papers this week, laying out early proposals for new customs arrangements and the border with Northern Ireland. FSB welcomed the commitment to an interim customs deal giving small businesses the time needed to prepare for new arrangements, and stressed the need for the most frictionless trade system as possible.
As post-Brexit proposals for Northern Ireland were published, Mike Cherry agreed that avoiding a hard border is "crucially important", allowing small firms to continue to have access to the workers and skills they need. Wilfred Mitchell, policy chair for Northern Ireland, added he was pleased to see firm proposals on the agenda and called for "certainty as soon as possible".

Support needed for firms battling inflationary pressure 
Figures out this week showed the latest Consumer Prices Index remains above the Government's 2% target at 2.6%, while the Retail Prices Index has increased to 3.6%. As well as increasing inflationary pressure, bruising business rates revaluation and rising employment costs has meant operating costs for small firms are at their highest in four years. Mike Cherry questioned whether the current inflationary measure is fit for purpose and warned that the Chancellor needs to give careful consideration to the upcoming Budget.

Have you received your £50 business rates cap? 
Earlier this year the Government announced a £50 monthly cap on business rates bill increases for small firms losing relief in England. The Government's deadline for implementing the cap is this coming Monday 21 August. If you believe you're eligible for the cap but haven't received a revised bill from your local authority, we want to hear from you. Please contact Matt Dickinson. In Scotland, increases in bills for pubs, restaurants, cafes, hotels and other accommodation providers should be capped at 12.5%.  Again, if you think you qualify, but haven't heard from your council, we want to hear from you.

Taking steps to improve wellbeing and mental health in your business? 
Are you taking steps to improve wellbeing within your business and look after the mental health of both yourself and your staff? We're looking for case studies and examples of best practice of what employers are doing to build healthy and inclusive work places. If you are interested in sharing your experiences, please email David Moore-Crouch.

Sleep-in shift payment changes
Following a recent court decision, care workers should now be paid at least the minimum wage for their sleep-in shifts, providing certain conditions are met. We want to understand how this decision has impacted FSB members. If you've been affected and would like to share your experiences, please email Charlotte Talbot.

Have your say on skills and training 
Our latest survey on skills and training is now live. We would like to know what skills, qualifications and experience your business needs now and in the future. Your views will help us influence government to ensure small businesses get their voice heard. The survey is for all FSB members based in England and should take eight to 10 minutes to complete. You can take part in the survey up until Friday 1 September. 

Innovate 2017 tickets 
Early bird tickets are now available for Innovate 2017 conference held on 8 and 9 November at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. The event will allow visitors to have the chance to meet innovators from the UK and internationally, network with investors, share ideas and get inspired. This year's conference will focus on how UK innovation can tackle some of the biggest global challenges and will feature a series of seminars on the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Click here for more details. 

Join Big Voice and get your business heard
Big Voice is FSB's unique, online research community and it's free for members to join. By commenting or responding to one of FSB's surveys, members give us the evidence we need to take to politicians at all levels, across the UK and in Brussels on the topics that really matter to them. Join for free and start making sure your voice is heard.