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17 May 2019

Weekly Brief 20 - Friday 17 May 2019

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 Business LGBT+ Pride

June is Pride month, and we are calling on you as LGBT+ small business owners and employees to share your stories and experiences with us as we celebrate the diversity of the small business community. We will be running a Pride campaign throughout June. If you're interested in being involved, please email

Take part in the SBI 

Our quarterly Small Business Index survey, which is closely followed by ministers, MPs and civil servants, is your chance to flag the different challenges that matter to you. If you're a Big Voice member, check your inbox for the latest survey before the 27 May deadline. If not, sign-up here.

Innovation roundtable

FSB is running a roundtable on business productivity, innovation and the Industrial Strategy. Chris McDonald, FSB's innovation policy chair will host a discussion with Nick Chism, BEIS Chief Business Advisor and stakeholders from Innovate UK. It will take place on 12 June in London. Find out more by contacting 


Free tickets for London Tech Week

FSB has 100 free tickets for the Artificial Intelligence summit (12-13 June) at London Tech Week. Adoption of digital technologies and AI are more important than ever to the day-to-day of running of a productive business. This is a great opportunity to learn about the latest technologies and new solutions for your business. If you're interested in attending, contact Tickets will be offered on a first come, first served basis.

MTD HMRC webinars

HMRC is running a series of Making Tax Digital webinars over the coming weeks. Topics to be covered include digital record-keeping, compatible software, the sign-up process, working with agents, and submitting VAT returns direct. Find out more here.

Breakthrough events 

Santander is hosting a number of workshops for small businesses across the UK - all are welcome to apply for tickets. They will cover a range of subjects, including trading internationally after Brexit, brand-building and scenario-planning. Upcoming events are taking place in London, Exeter and Bath. More information and a full list of events is available here.   



Responding to the announcement that UK productivity growth has decreased for the third consecutive quarter, FSB warned that ongoing political uncertainty is stifling the ability of small firms to make the investments needed to lift output per hour. Speaking to the Sun newspaper, National Chairman Mike Cherry stated that "the data illustrates what ongoing uncertainty means for all businesses and the wider economy."  


The Co-operative Bank - providers of FSB Business Banking- was awarded £15 million from a £775 million fund aimed at driving market competition and innovation. Responding to the announcement, the Co-operative Bank pledged to supplement the award with £17 million of its own, using the money to improve digital services, invest in infrastructure and increase its range of small business products. "Our award-winning SME banking proposition is a hidden gem and we want to play our part in driving competition and offering the UK's SMEs a genuine alternative to the -Big 5' banks", it's CEO Andrew Bester said.      

FSB also announced a collaboration with Facebook to help address the digital skills deficit in the UK's small businesses. Together, the pair will create and deliver a series of custom-made in-person training sessions for small businesses across the UK, launching on 20 May. "Digital innovation provides enormous potential both for individual businesses and for improving UK productivity" said Policy and Advocacy Chairman Martin McTague, welcoming the announcement, "but these benefits can only be realised if small business owners are able and confident to take advantage." 


The latest statistics from the Valuation Office Agency's Check, Challenge, Appeal business rates system showed a 97% drop in the number of businesses challenging their rates bills in the last two years in England, compared to the two years following the previous revaluation. FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said that the statistics showed that the "system needs to be urgently reformed- the current CCA system forces time-pressed small firms, already having to deal with unfair revaluations, to try and navigate a complicated platform."


After the breakdown in cross-party Brexit talks Mike Cherry has today said that, "nearly two months after we were supposed to leave the EU, we find ourselves no closer to a solution to this political mess." He added that, "the breakdown of cross-party talks is just another chapter in what is becoming a litany of Brexit process failures... we simply cannot see this continue through to the end of October."


Online Courts Bill

In a debate on the Courts and Tribunals Bill in the House of Lords, Lord Mackay (Conservative) spoke about the challenges and costs small businesses face when involved in disputes to do with late or non-payment. He and Lord Beith (Liberal Democrat) raised the need for small businesses to be involved in the development of online court procedure rules. Responding for the Government, Lord Keen said that it is hoped that online procedures will reduce costs for businesses.

Business rates reform 

In a debate on an administrative aspect of the business rates system, Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak spoke about involving FSB and others in any future reforms of the business rates system in order to deliver benefits and reduce burdens, whilst supporting local retention of rates. 

Opportunities for young people

In a debate on equality of opportunity for young people, Lord Mawson (Crossbench) praised "the army of young entrepreneurs being generated in the British economy", saying how important they are in disadvantaged communities in particular. His comments reflected FSB's recent -Small Business, Big Heart' research. 


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