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12 August 2016

Weekly Brief 32 – Friday 12 August 2016

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

Make or break week for apprenticeships
Apprenticeship news has dominated the week, with the Government announcing its proposals for apprenticeship funding off the back of a new FSB report on apprenticeship reform. In a key concession to FSB calls, Ministers have proposed that smaller firms with fewer than 50 employees which take on 16-18 year old apprentices will not be required to make any financial contribution towards the cost of training. Businesses which take on younger apprentices will also benefit from a cash incentive of £1000 per apprentice.

Our research, ‘Make or Break: Getting apprenticeship reform right for small businesses’, shows how vital this concession will be with small firms critical to achieving the Government’s target of reaching three million new apprentices by 2020. The report found the small business sector in England has the potential to double the number of apprentices they take on to well over two million, if the Government can get the incentives and package of support right. This was covered by The Times, Sky News Radio, City AM, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, CNN and Jazz FM.

Tell the Government how you feel about the proposals for apprenticeship funding by completing this survey before 5 September.

Banking market shake-up
FSB was quick to respond to the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) long-awaited announcement on changes to the retail banking sector. From the outset of the 21 month investigation, we called for a set of remedies that would empower small firms, and lead to increased switching and greater competition across the market. The CMA agreed with a number of FSB recommendations, including further support for small businesses affected by bank branch closures and standardising information and evidence needed to open a Business Current Account (BCA). We called for the changes to be swiftly put into action and we now want Ministers to look at further options to protect small businesses’ access to their local bank. This gained coverage in The Guardian, Daily Mail, BBC.

Living Wage letter
FSB was among business groups calling for National Living Wage targets to be pushed back, in a letter to Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark. We recommended the Low Pay Commission be given the power to reach their targets on a year-by-year basis, to better reflect the economic uncertainties the country faces over the coming years. This was covered by Financial Times, Mirror, City AM, LBC Radio. Tune in tonight for more coverage on BBC Radio 4.

New Growth Champions announced
On Thursday the Government announced that all Ministers in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will act as Local Growth Champions across the UK. Each will be tasked with building relationships with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in different regions, as part of the Government’s plans for the new Industrial Strategy. Find out who your minister will be here.

Misleading online reviews
The CMA has been investigating the use of online reviews and endorsements to ensure they’re being used in line with consumer protection law. It recently concluded an investigation into a retailer that ‘cherry-picked’ more favourable reviews for publication on its website and actively didn’t publish negative reviews. Read the CMA’s open letter and advice to retailers ensure you aren’t at risk of breaking the law by misleading consumers.

Do you own a rural tourism business?
The Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee is holding an inquiry into issues affecting rural tourism businesses. This could include difficulties with planning and regulation, infrastructure, funding skills and access. Please contact Will Black if you would like to discuss issues affecting your rural tourism business.

Business crime survey underway
FSB is endorsing the 2016 Commercial Victimisation Survey, an annual survey about crimes experienced by businesses in England and Wales. Taking part in the survey is your opportunity to help the Home Office understand the nature, extent and cost of crimes against businesses and to tackle crime in this sector. If your business is randomly selected to take part, and interviewer from the independent research organisation Ipsos MORI will call you between August and November 2016 to conduct an interview over the phone.

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