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14 June 2019

Weekly Brief 24 - Friday 14 June 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.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

Amazon Marketplace 

Competition authorities are investigating potentially anti-competitive practices at Amazon, looking into its role as both an online marketplace provider and a retailer in its own right. We're keen to hear from members that use Amazon Marketplace to sell their products in order to better understand their experiences, both good and bad. Let us know what you think by contacting james.sibley@fsb.org.uk and press@fsb.org.uk

LATEST ADVICE & OPPORTUNITIES

Are you in the food and drink industry?

The Food and Drink Retail Apprenticeship trailblazer group (England only) is searching for small food and drink retailers to join the initiative and help shape the Retail Apprenticeship Standard. If you are interested in joining the group, please get in touch with chinara.rustamova@fsb.org.uk.

New advice on self-employment 

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group has issued a new guide providing information to the self-employed and advisers focussing on lesser known tax rules that are specific to sole traders. The guide covers the tax system's different treatment of employees and the the self-employed where tax credits and universal credit are concerned. It also highlights sources of additional support and includes a glossary explaining key accounting and tax terms.

THE SMALL BIZ WEEK IN REVIEW

Monday

At the start of the week, FSB ran a roundtable focussing on the power of apprenticeships to boost small businesses. The event, hosted by JP Morgan, was led by FSB's Apprenticeships Chair Anthony Impey - its guest speaker was Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton. 

Seven in ten small firms do not expect their performance to improve over the coming three months, that's according to the latest research from FSB's Small Business Index. The quarterly SBI confidence measure stands at -8.8 in Q2 2019, down 22 points compared to the same period in 2018, marking a fourth consecutive negative reading. Such a sustained slump is a first for the index, which launched in 2010.

Tuesday

Following Monday's roundtable, FSB released a podcast discussing key issues surrounding apprenticeships. FSB's Head of Media Alan Soady spoke to Kirstie Donnelly, Managing Director of the City & Guilds Group, as well as Anthony Impey. Together they discuss the importance of apprenticeships and the benefits they can bring to small businesses. Listen here. 

Wednesday

FSB's latest policy report was released this week, assessing how the Ministry of Defence (MoD) can better utilise small firms in its supply chains. FSB has called for the MoD to urgently up its spend with SMEs, warning that it risks missing its target of spending 25 pence in every pound with smaller businesses by 2022 if it fails to do so.   

And responding to new research from Which? - revealing that seven million consumers have been left unable to use payment cards due to system failures over the last year - FSB's Policy and Advocacy Chairman Martin McTague stressed that, with "two million consumers still rely entirely on cash for day-to-day purchases, it's vital that no-one is left behind as we increasingly move to a digital-first shopping environment." Later in the day, Martin spoke at Which?'s Access to Cash Summit, explaining why small businesses need freedom of choice when it comes to payment methods.

Thursday

FSB responded to the publication of a report from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on the regulator's further investigative steps regarding Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)'s Global Restructuring Group (GRG). FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said that "the FCA had failed to provide consolation to former GRG customers who lost everything." His intervention was covered by the Times, Mail and BBC Online.  

FROM THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

MPs debate bank branch closures

In a debate about bank branch closures, Shadow Treasury Minister Anneliese Dodds spoke about FSB's work on access to cash and the importance of bank branches for small businesses and their customers. Douglas Ross (Conservative, Moray) spoke about areas where poor signal can make electronic payments difficult. Responding for the Government, Economic Secretary John Glen spoke about the voluntary Access to Banking Standard which major high street banks have signed up to, requiring them to work with customers and communities to minimise the impact of branch closures. He also spoke about the role the Post Office network plays in providing banking facilities. 

MPs debate the future of high streets

MPs held a debate on the findings of the Local Government Committee's inquiry into the future of high streets this week. The debate covered the importance of business improvement districts, concerns about relaxing permitted development rights, and options for reforming business rates. MHCLG Minister Heather Wheeler responded, speaking about the £675 million future high streets fund announced in the Budget, increases in small business rates relief, and transitional relief following the 2017 revaluation. 

Lords debate referendum uncertainty

In a debate on referendums, Shadow Deputy Leader in the Lords Baroness Hayter spoke about the impact of Brexit uncertainty on businesses, referencing comments by FSB. 

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