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25 August 2017

Weekly Brief 35 – Friday 25 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

Small businesses stung by staircase tax
The latest business rates shambles was highlighted this week when the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) voiced its opposition to the staircase tax- the backdated business rates bill being delivered to small firms in England and Wales that use communal stairwells, walkways or lifts. Following changes to the way the Valuation Office Agency assesses staircases, businesses now receive individual rates bills for each floor they occupy, provided the areas between the floors are communal. Previously, firms would receive a single bill covering all occupied areas. Senior cross party MPs have voiced opposition to the issue, which has been covered in the press including The Sun and the Daily Express.
In Scotland, FSB welcome the report from the Barclay review of business rates, arguing that it outlines practical recommendations to fix an outdated tax system. Read more here

'Stacked' procurement system locking out small firms
Small businesses are still fighting an uphill battle to secure public sector contracts, according to a new report by FSB, published this week. Unstacking the Deck: Balancing the Public Procurement Odds highlights that just 23 per cent of SMEs had worked for the public sector over the last twelve months - down two percentage points from 2014. FSB is calling on Government and the public sector to step up efforts to remove blockages unfairly preventing smaller firms from supplying to the public sector, with proposals including forcing local authorities in England to publish contracts over £10,000.

More Brexit papers released
The Government released further post-Brexit policy papers this week, touching on data protection, proposals for tackling cross-border legal disputes and plans for leaving direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice

Changes to GCSE exam results
GCSE results were out on Thursday, and with them the first changes to the exam grading system in England. This year's results for English and Maths have been graded using numbers rather than letters, with students now receiving grades ranging from nine to one, which will be rolled out to other subjects by 2019. There's lots of videos and other resources available on the Ofqual website to help businesses prepare. You can access an employer factsheet here or for more general information on the changes visit here. For more information on the changes, contact Education & Skills Policy Advisor, Annie Peate.

Do you sell goods or services to customers based in France?
In the context of Brexit, we are keen to understand the trading relationships between British small businesses and customers based in France. Do you anticipate selling goods and/or services to consumers or businesses in France becoming harder post-Brexit? If so, what are your concerns? If you are interested in sharing your thoughts, please email James Sibley.

FSB members chosen for Small Biz 100 list
Small Business Saturday unveiled their Small Biz 100 list this week, which included 20 FSB members. Each of the firms will be highlighted in the 100 day run up to Small Business Saturday, which is taking place on 2 December this year. The initiative is now in its fifth year and aims to promote the successes of the small business community.

Last chance to take part in our skills survey
Members still have a week left to take part in our skills survey. 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. The survey closes on Friday 1 September.

Guidance published to support employers of trans employees
New guidance has been published by Acas to help employers, small businesses and managers understand the basics around equality law and make sure trans people are treated fairly at work. The information includes advice on using the correct terminology when discussing trans issues and support on developing policies and practices, as well as best practice on how to treat all trans employees including issues such as recruitment, confidentiality and line manager support.

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.