FSB’s aim is to help smaller businesses to achieve their ambitions. To do this, we work to create an operating environment in which all self-employed, small and medium businesses can thrive. In parallel, we aim to increase the number of people who choose to start up a new small business; and where policy and circumstances continue to cause difficulty for businesses, we develop a range of Member Services to support our members by harnessing our collective scale as the largest business organisation in the UK. All of our engagement is centred on maximising these strands.

In our previous election manifesto ‘Realising the potential of small businesses’ FSB outlined a number of key calls to action, built on evidence from a major 2015 report we commissioned from Ulster University Business School. The calls centred on the following five strands:

  • Realising the potential for growth
  • Realising the potential for doing business 
  • Realising the potential for better regulation
  • Realising the potential to connect
  • Realising the potential for the future

In 2022, we start by asking whether actions have been taken to ensure that potential has been realised across all five strands since 2016. The answer is likely ‘no’ but, at best, it is unclear. For FSB members, their preference will centre around creating as much certainty and predictability as possible. This helps to minimise risk around decision making or investment - facilitating business owners to work towards realising their ambition and as a result, creating opportunity, employment and wealth.

Our recommendations

Better Government

  • Rapidly agree and publish the Programme for Government
  • Publish departmental business plans within 30 days of the new financial year
  • Develop a new Open Data Strategy
  • Review the NI Better Regulation Strategy
  • Ensure the Small and Micro Business Impact Test (SAMBIT) has a statutory footing across all departments

Prioritise People

  • Significantly increase the Business Birth Rate and the number of start-ups
  • Create a robust Entrepreneurship Strategy
  • Implement a full Childcare Strategy in partnership with stakeholders
  • Engage with small businesses on the new Skills Strategy and ensure adequate budget allocation
  • Extend new apprentice subsidies for small and microbusinesses

Prioritise Finance

  • Create a Finance Stakeholder Group
  • Transform the Business Rates system to ensure it is fit for purpose
  • Create a NI Prompt Payment Champion
  • Revisit NI corporation tax powers to reduce the tax rate

Prioritise Sustainability

  • Develop cohesive environmental policies based on effective SME engagement
  • Ensure the NI Energy Strategy and Net Zero Action Plan are fit for small and micro businesses
  • Implement recommendations from the High Streets Task Force report