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26 January 2018

Weekly Brief 4 – Friday 26 January 2018

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.  

More protection needed for small firms following Carillion collapse
FSB has called on the Government to extend the use of project bank accounts for all major public projects to ensure businesses are protected against catastrophes like the collapse of Carillion. The accounts see money for public projects held in trusts rather than by tier 1 contractors, protecting firms throughout the supply chain and helping stem the poor payment practices evident at some bigger companies. 

A week on from the collapse, National Chairman Mike Cherry has stressed that all FTSE 350 companies should sign up to a strengthened Prompt Payment Code encompassing a new "three strikes and you're out" rule. The reformed code would specifically target repeat late payment offenders. Under the proposed reforms, the worst offending companies would be struck off and stripped of the right to be awarded public sector contracts until their practices improve.

FCA Ombudsman proposals fall short of the mark 
FSB has challenged the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)'s proposals to increase the remit of the Financial Ombudsman Service. Following the publication of the proposed changes, Mike Cherry said it was "disappointing" that the paper is largely silent on the question of bringing more unregulated activities, including lending to small businesses, into the Ombudsman's scope. "We also need to question why disputes from business owners whose firms haven't survived are not considered as part of this consultation," he added. Read the full release here

Parliamentary mentions 
On Monday, during a House of Lords debate on the Small Business Commissioner, FSB was mentioned by Baroness Rock (Cons), Baroness Burt (Lib Dem) and Lord Henley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Both Baroness Rock and Baroness Burt quoted FSB research showing that a third of all payments to small businesses are late. In his closing statement Lord Henley mentioned that FSB has met the Small Business Commissioner as part of his engagement programme. 

On Wednesday, during a debate on the announcement of RBS closures in Argyll and Bute, Drew Hendry (SNP, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey), stated that FSB "has said that this is bitterly disappointing news for not only people, but businesses in the highlands that will now have difficulties with cash transactions".

During a debate on Carillion and Public Sector Outsourcing on Wednesday, Rebecca Long Bailey, Shadow Business Secretary, mentioned that "the Federation of Small Businesses highlighted to the Government how risk was transferred to suppliers at Carillion; that it was not paying suppliers on time and extended its payment period to over 120 days". In the same debate, the Small Business Minister Andrew Griffiths MP highlighted that FSB was now on the Government's Carillion Taskforce.

Have you submitted your tax return? 
The deadline for submitting self-assessment tax returns to HM Revenue and Customs is just days away. Returns must be completed and submitted by Wednesday 31 January. Help and support from HMRC can be found here, which includes a series of webinars and YouTube videos

Have your say about international trade 
The Department for International Trade has begun publishing a list of countries that International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will be visiting over the coming months to discuss trade. The department is inviting small firms to have their say on 'in market' issues about the named countries. Contact DIT's visits team for more information. 

Ideas mean business
Regional events are being held across the country to encourage young people to develop business ideas. Innovate UK has teamed up with The Princes Trust on a Young Entrepreneurs campaign, working with 18-30 year olds who are not in employment, education or training. Events will be held in February and March. More information can be found here

How confident are you feeling? 
Our latest quarterly survey on small business confidence is now live. If you're a member of Big Voice, check your emails to take part. Otherwise you can sign up to Big Voice here. FSB uses the Small Business Index to make the case for its members to leading politicians and policymakers.