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31 December 2013

FSB National Chairman New Years Message

Reference number: PR 2013 66

FSB News Release
PR 2013 66
John Allan, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman''s New Year message
The last year has seen a major shift in the economy.  It has navigated a potential triple dip recession to sustained, yet still fragile growth. Indeed FSB research indicates a sea change as firms feel more confident and want to invest and grow their businesses.  
I feel 2014 is going to be the year of small business. We''ve already seen the main political parties begin to set out their priorities for the coming years as we approach the 2015 General Election. With almost all of the UK''s 4.9 million businesses being small, their votes will count dearly and each party will contend for their attention.  As the UK''s leading business organisation, the FSB has a major role to play, and our influence has never been stronger.
Indeed the issues affecting small firms have been hot topics this year as energy, business rates and access to finance made many of the headlines.
I am personally shocked by the high cost of business rates. In some cases small firms pay more in rates than rent. This cannot be right and the appeals process is often lengthy and unfair. Given the cost and unfair process, we are pleased the Government has committed to address the appeals backlog, a key ask for the FSB in the Autumn Statement.  The extension of Small Business Rate Relief is another win for us, however our work on business rates is not done. We will step up our pressure for a fundamental review of the system.
The business energy market is also in desperate need of reform. We want to see radical measures put in place to increase transparency in the market and allow small firms to switch to more competitive energy deals with ease. 
FSB research shows utilities costs are the biggest barrier to growth for around fifth of small businesses.  Unlike households, small firms can''t access published prices making it almost impossible to work out their future overheads. It isn''t right that most micro businesses consume the same amount of energy as an average household yet are treated differently. It is only right that they are offered the same level of regulatory protection as domestic consumers. 
It is now accepted by all political parties that reform to the structure of the energy market is vital for fairness. As well as reforming markets, the increasing recognition that small and especially micro businesses who behave like domestic consumers and should be afforded similar levels of protection in the market is an important step in the right direction. 
This is a facet of the market that has been overlooked for many years. It must be addressed if the smallest firms are to get a fair deal from the big energy companies. We are pressing for small businesses to be treated akin to consumers in the area of flood insurance too, where measures to help households should be extended to small firms.
There is much exciting work to come from the FSB in the year ahead. Alongside the British Chambers of Commerce we are leading an independent survey of small business banking services, more of which will be announced in the New Year. 
And in another exciting development for the FSB, we have been appointed one of four organisations which can take a ‘super-complaint'' about financial services to the Financial Conduct Authority. This is a big challenge, but one we are ready for in order to stand up for small firms that have been treated unfairly.  
Throughout the spring, FSB''s influence will be clear and visible as we demonstrate total cross-party support at the highest level. We are holding our first policy conference, with big-hitting speakers from the world of politics and business.  Karen Gordon Mills, former Administrator of the US Small Business Administration and Cabinet Member in the Obama Administration, will speak alongside senior Ministers and political speakers.  The day will focus on enterprise, growth, young people and skills, and set the agenda for small business and policy.  
The economy continues to show signs of recovery with further growth expected next year. This must be underpinned by increasing the skills base and getting young people into the jobs market must be a priority.
The FSB long-called for Government to look at national insurance contributions to incentivise small firms to take on staff and the employment allowance and the young persons'' allowance will have a positive impact when they begin.  We have appointed Young Enterprise as our official charity and we will make the most of this exciting partnership to encourage enterprise education in schools across the country.
As optimism increases, many firms will look at exporting as a way to expand and grow their business and our latest research shows increasingly members are thinking about exporting. While Europe remains a key trading partner, many members want to target fast-growing nations such as Brazil, India, Russia and China. 
I am delighted to be an International Festival of Business Ambassador. The Festival, taking place in Liverpool in June-July 2014, will showcase all that is good about UK businesses and the products made here. We have a wealth of talented innovators and entrepreneurs capable of sustaining the economic recovery – it is time we let the rest of the world know just how strong our reserves really are. 
Finally, FSB turns 40 in 2014 and our National Conference will reflect on our 40 years, back in the North West where the Federation was born. It will celebrate the innovation and entrepreneurship our members embody, and their ability to produce the employment and wealth for the UK in good times and bad.
Notes to editors: 
1. The FSB is the UK''s leading business organisation with around 200,000 members. It exists to protect and promote the interests of the UK''s Real-Life Entrepreneurs who run their own business. More information is available at 
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