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20 May 2016

Weekly Brief 20 – Friday 20 May 2016

Queen’s Speech promising
FSB commented on a number of Bills announced in the Queen’s Speech which could have a big impact on small businesses this week. Areas of focus included energy and regulated markets, access to broadband, local retention of business rates, and regulation for pension providers among others. FSB said it will be closely monitoring this important and timely programme of reform. FSB spokesperson Louise Stewart spoke to share radio about the Bills FSB would be watching.

‘Enterprising Allies’ report

FSB released a new report this week about small business-university engagement called ‘Enterprising Allies’. This report calls for better engagement between universities and businesses, arguing that universities have a significant role to play in supporting their local enterprise ecosystem. The report highlights a range of other areas where business and universities can collaborate, including research and development (R&D), procurement and fostering spin-outs.

Pensions Select Committee pinpoints auto-enrolment risks

The Work and Pensions Select Committee published a report highlighting the growing disquiet over the resilience of a number of master trust auto-enrolment pension schemes. The committee backed FSB calls to do more to support pension saving for the self-employed not covered by auto-enrolment. This gained coverage in The Times and Mail on Sunday.

Unemployment falls but small business confidence subdued
Business confidence remains subdued, despite signs of the labour market strengthening. The latest UK job numbers show employment up by 44,000 and unemployment broadly stable, down by 2,000.

Red tape battle

New research from the FSB showed small firms spend, on average, four days per month dealing with administration. Red tape is a battle for three-quarters of business owners (76%) who say they spend more time than they would like on business compliance and other issues. This gained coverage in Daily Telegraph.

CMA banking recommendations

FSB welcomed provisional recommendations from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on changes to the retail banking sector. The recommendations should help small businesses by making it easier to compare banks and switch more easily to get a better banking deal. We will be working with the CMA ahead of the publication of its final recommendations in August.

Toilet trouble for takeaways

FSB forayed into this week’s toilet saga following a controversial High Court judgement which could see thousands of small takeaways forced to provide toilets. We called for local councils to take a common sense approach to their guidance to small business owners, so that takeaways aren’t required to add bathroom facilities or remove seating areas, when almost all their customers will be eating elsewhere. This gained coverage in City AM, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and on BBC Radio 2.

Inflation eases

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell to 0.3% in April, down from 0.5% in March. This low level on inflation is helping to reduce pressure on small businesses grappling with the challenges of new policy measures like the National Living Wage and auto-enrolment pensions. The FSB urged the Bank of England to remain cautious when considering future interest rate hikes.

#FSBEURef debate line-up revealed

We have announced our line-up for our upcoming EU Referendum debate on Monday 13 June. The event will be moderated by BBC presenter Polly Evans and include official spokespeople from each campaign group: Richard Reed, Deputy Chairman of Britain Stronger in Europe; John Longworth, Chairman of the Vote Leave Business Council; Chuka Umunna MP, Britain Stronger in Europe and Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Vote Leave.

#FSBEURef podcast for Wales now available
Our next #FSBEURef podcast is now available. The questions in this podcast come from members in the Wales region. The podcast was moderated by Louise Stewart, FSB spokesperson and the panellists included Craig Williams MP, Member of Parliament for Cardiff North, Political Champion for Wales Stronger In Europe and Lee Canning, Chairman Business for Britain (Wales). More information on the full schedule of podcasts can be found here: #FSBEUREf podcast series

Women in Enterprise Twitter chat and Thunderclap

FSB has announced the line-up for its Women in Enterprise Twitter chat. We’re encouraging women in business and those thinking of starting up to question our expert panel on business issues, such as access to finance, business support and role models. Sign up to our Thunderclap to support the chat.

Last chance to have your say on energy

FSB’s energy survey closes on Monday. If you’re a member, sign up to the Big Voice community for free and have your say on what energy infrastructure you think the Government should invest in. You can join here.

FSB to explore the future of global trade for small firms

FSB is delighted to be contributing to the International Festival for Business 2016. We will be holding a day-long event on Monday 20 June 2016 called ‘From Northern Powerhouse to Global Markets – Small Firms and the Global Trade Agenda’. It will be hosted by BBC North West’s Arif Ansari, with a Senior Government Minister heading an impressive cast list of international speakers. For more information, or to register for this event, please visit our website.

Parliamentary Update

The Queen’s speech took place on Wednesday at the State Opening of Parliament.

BIS launch consultation on business broadband

The Government has launched a call for evidence looking at the digital needs of businesses. This will mainly look at the availability, price and suitability of different broadband products. If you would like to contribute to FSB's response, please contact Will Black.

Tourism grant money up for grabs

VisitEngland is calling for bids from businesses that want to set how investment is used from a fund of £40 million to deliver a bookable product that appeals to international visitors. The fund is intended to focus on smaller-scale quick-win projects and pilots that meet customer demand and test new product or new ways of joining up and distributing existing products. It can also be used for research to build understanding of customers, markets and product gaps. Visit Discover England Fund to find out more.

Let’s talk mental health

A new Mental Health Toolkit for employers has been launched today to coincide with the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week. The toolkit aims to help employers take positive actions to build a culture that champions good mental health and supports those who have mental health problems. The interactive resource is free to use by all employers, whether private, public or third sector.

Are you registered to vote in the EU Referendum?

Are you registered to vote in the EU Referendum? If you’re already on the electoral register, you don’t need to register again. If you are not, you must register by 7 June to vote on 23 June and get you small businesses voice heard. For more information or to register now, visit the website.

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. This evidence is used to support FSB lobbying and help shape the laws affecting small businesses. Join for free and start making sure your voice is heard.