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More help needed with cost of doing business, declares FSB

FSB backed several measures included in November’s Autumn Statement by the Government but called for further help to bring down the cost of doing business for small firms.

National Chairman Mike Cherry welcomed the confirmation by Chancellor Philip Hammond of plans to permanently increase business rates relief – taking 600,000 English firms out of the system. “We are delighted that from April small businesses will start to benefit,” he said. “We are particularly pleased the Government listened to our calls to give rural businesses 100 per cent relief.

“The decision to further lower corporation tax will provide a welcome boost for affected firms,” he added. “We hope the Government and the Office of Tax Simplification now builds upon this by streamlining the tax system.”

Mr Cherry also backed the modest rise in the National Living Wage to £7.50 an hour, but called on the Government to increase the employment allowance from £3,000 to £4,000 to help offset the increasing cost of employing people. 

The creation of a £23 billion fund to improve productivity through investment in infrastructure was also well received. In Scotland, Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish Policy Convenor, called for any additional consequential funds to be spent on roads and telecommunications. 

“With one in three local roads in Scotland in an unacceptable condition, we’re looking for the Scottish Government to step up,” he said. “Scotland also has much poorer mobile coverage than England. UK Government efforts to boost coverage through 5G must deliver for firms in Stirling and Sutherland as well as in Shoreditch.”

Janet Jones, Wales Policy Chair, said: “We welcome the announcement of £400 million to support capital investment and infrastructure in Wales. Welsh Government will need to work closely with business to identify projects that give the best return.”

In Northern Ireland, Wilfred Mitchell, FSB Policy Chair supported the commitment that the Executive’s budget will receive an extra £250 million through to 2020-21 for infrastructure spending. “The £250 million for infrastructure will underpin longer-term economic growth through better connectivity,” he said. 

Mr Cherry backed the £400 million allocated to improve small business finance through the British Business Bank, but was critical of the increase in insurance premium tax, which rose from 10 to 12 per cent, and called on the Government to rule out any future rises during the lifetime of the current Parliament.