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18 December 2017

Weekly Brief 50 - Friday 15 December 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.  

Mind the digital skills gap
FSB is warning that a digital skills gap in small firms is holding back productivity, as mentioned in City AM this week. This is just one of the findings in this latest report on skills and training in small businesses. National Chairman Mike Cherry called for small businesses and their staff to be at the heart of a new National Retraining Scheme, announced in the Budget to boost digital capability. Catch up on this blogvideo and press release

#FSBChat on skills reaches millions 
See all the action from this week's @fsb_policy Twitter chat with leading figures in skills and employment by viewing this Storify. The chat reached more than nine million people and covered topics such as digital skills, training and skills shortages in the small business community. 

46 areas denied business rates lifeline 
FSB is calling on the 46 slowest councils in England when it comes to distributing business rates relief to do so before Christmas. Mike Cherry said: "It's now nine months on from the announcement of emergency relief for those most harmed by April's business rates revaluation - It's completely unacceptable that small firms in these areas are being put in jeopardy by this lethargic action." 

We need your views  
FSB wants a better understanding of how smaller enterprises deal with data - but we need your help. Please take part in our latest survey on data protection by January 2. Your views help us to lobby directly to policymakers and politicians to ensure the small business voice is heard. You can take part as a member of Big Voice, or sign-up here

More support needed to make tax digital 
A new report from HMRC has highlighted how much work is needed to enable the small business community to reap the benefits of digital tax reporting. It finds that one in five firms and landlords are not using digital tax platforms because they lack confidence in their digital skills. FSB says it's vital that support for these businesses is prioritised over the next 18 months, before the 2019 deadline hits for all VAT-registered firms to report on VAT digitally. 

Loneliness is everyone's business 
FSB welcomed the work of the Jo Cox Foundation in tackling the UK's epidemic of loneliness this week, as Rachel Reeves MP gave a speech to throw a new light on loneliness. FSB's own research has found that working alone is one of the top three challenges of being self-employed. FSB offers practical support to help combat this, including free business networking events called FSB Connect, which has seen over 4,000 participants in the UK since launching earlier this year. 

Parliamentary Update
During BEIS Oral Questions on Tuesday, Drew Hendry MP (SNP,  Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) quoted FSB Scotland when asking about RBS' decision to close 269 branches, describing it as a 'hammer blow.'

On Thursday, the Treasury Select Committee published a report on transitional arrangements for exiting the EU. In the report, which highlights the need for a rapid agreement of a transitional deal they quoted evidence given to the committee by Martin McTague, FSB National Policy Chairman, last month: 'If we are about to drop off a cliff in April 2019, [small businesses] will be completely ill-prepared for that and it will almost certainly result in business failures.'

Apply now for innovation loans 
Small businesses with ground breaking ideas can now apply for new innovation loans from the UK's innovation agency to support their growth. This is part of an innovation loans pilot worth £50 million. The first competition - worth £10 million - is for SMEs which want help overcoming barriers to scaling up innovation in infrastructure systems. Apply now and find out more about the loans pilot here

T levels consultation launched
DfE is inviting FSB members to submit their views on the implementation of T levels in England. T levels will be open to young people aged 16 - 19 years olds in 15 subject areas where substantial technical training is needed. The consultation provides more information on the structure and design of T levels including the design of the technical qualification and compulsory three month work placement that will be an integral part of the programme. FSB will be submitting a formal response, however if you wish to share your views you may do so directly via the consultation or email Education and Skills Policy Advisor Annie Peate. The consultation will last for ten weeks and will close in February 2018.

Interested in being a school governor or trustee? Read on- 
Being a school governor is a great way for individuals to gain valuable new skills, such as strategic planning and leadership, and schools are looking for volunteers from a wide range of professions and sectors, with skills and expertise in areas such as finance, human resources, law, and marketing. Inspiring Governance is an online platform which connects volunteers interested in serving as governors and trustees with schools in England. Check out their new film to find out about volunteering as a school governor. 

New trade commissioner roles up for grabs
The Department for International Trade is recruiting for a new team of trade commissioners to represent the UK in key markets across the world. Her Britannic Majesty's Trade Commissioners will head the global operations of DIT, leading on export promotion, inward and outward direct investment, and trade policy overseas on behalf of the UK government, covering nine geographical areas. Click here for more information.