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13 October 2017

Weekly Brief 42 – Friday 13 October 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
Pound coin switch-over
One of the big stories of the week came in the form of the impending switch-over from the new round pound coin. Many small businesses have been working towards the Sunday 15 October switch-over date, for the last six months. As the countdown started this week, FSB featuring prominently in the paperstelevision and radio, pointing out that small firms, if they wish, can still allow customers to spend the old pounds in the few days after the deadline, as long as they bank them. That "common sense approach," allowing them to use their discretion, was welcomed by National Chairman Mike Cherry. Find out more about the new coin here

Low appetite for T-Level placements
Only six per cent of small businesses in England would be willing to offer work placements under current plans for T-levels, according to new research from FSB. The information, released as the Government launched their action plan for delivering T-levels, has raised concerns that the scheme will fail without the right support for employers. FSB is supportive of the new qualification and the Government's focus on technical education, which has been neglected for too long, but warns that small businesses will be vital to the overall success of the route.

Chancellor 'looking at' steps to end staircase tax
Philip Hammond confirmed the government was "certainly looking at" legislative steps to put an end to the staircase tax in England and Wales, which affects businesses that occupy multiple floors within a building now receiving individual rates bills for each floor. Commenting, Mike Cherry said the Chancellor's decision is a "victory of common sense" and will come as welcome relief to the desperate firms who had absolutely no idea that bill hikes were coming down the line. 

Call for more support for exporters as trade deficit widens 
The latest ONS UK trade statistics were released this week, showing a further widening of the UK trade deficit. Mike Cherry said the worrying figures showed the importance of both current exporters and those thinking about trading overseas, continuing to do so. "The Government needs to do more to encourage exporting, making sure each cog of the supply chain is taken into consideration in any future trade agreements," he said. 

To mark World Mental Health Day 2017 on Monday, FSB urged the Government to reach out and work with small businesses and the self-employed to tackle the impact of mental health issues in the workplace. Statistics from FSB's medical and health advice service show the number of small business owners and self-employed seeking advice on mental health conditions has doubled in the last five years. Our short guide 'Wellbeing in Small Business' provides ideas on how business owners better manage the wellbeing of themselves and their employees. 

Seeds of promise from Clean Growth Strategy 
After nearly two years of waiting, the Government's Clean Growth Strategy was welcomed by FSB as a potential blueprint for achieving long term carbon targets. Mike Cherry warned that the "elephant in the room" - the extensive, and expensive, overhaul of the UK's energy infrastructure and who will bear the costs, still remains. "Government must guarantee that these costs are shared out equitably through a fair and transparent market," he said. 

Drop in apprenticeship numbers
New figures were released from the Department for Education this week showing the number of people starting apprenticeships in England has fallen by 61 per cent, following the introduction of the apprenticeship levy and changes to funding for small businesses. 
Mike Cherry said although the programme of reform will take time to bed in, he emphasised there needs to be a "real concerted effort to enable employers to take on apprentices".

Parliamentary updates
During the Second Reading of the Data Protection Bill in the House of Lords on Tuesday, Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con) and Baroness Hamwee (Lib Dem) noted concerns voiced by FSB on the scope of data protection obligations, and the costs associated with this.

On Wednesday, Mary Glindon MP (Lab) spoke at Cabinet Office oral questions about FSB's recent procurement report, asking the Minister whether she intends to issue guidance requiring local authorities to increase their use of dynamic purchasing systems so that small businesses are not locked out from lists of potential suppliers. 

What's your take on tax?
FSB has launched its tax survey. We would like to know how much time you are putting into doing taxes and how easy it is to access tax relief. The results from this survey are critical for our conversations with the Treasury, particularly ahead of the Autumn Budget. Please check your inbox for a link to the survey, which runs until Wednesday 18 October.

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