There are now 5.7 million small businesses and self-employed in the UK and it’s crucial they receive the support they need if they are to grow and succeed. FSB’s Policy Director Martin McTague and I have had regular meetings with the Business Secretary Greg Clark throughout the year and I also attended the Prime Minister’s key speech on Brexit in Florence.
Despite the uncertainty over the Brexit deal, it hasn’t put people off from starting their own business.
FSB has been keen to ensure the Government does not neglect the domestic agenda. We have been campaigning hard on issues such as reforming business rates, winning Government support for a delay in the lowering of the VAT threshold, which would have affected thousands of businesses, and stopping the unfair Staircase Tax, which would have penalised businesses on the layout of their premises.
The past year has seen big changes for FSB as an organisation too. It’s been our responsibility, since FSB was set up in 1974, to shine a light on the challenges that the self-employed face. We are, in effect, the trade union for the selfemployed, and we champion their interests in everything that we do. We’re proud of our grassroots supporters and without them and our members right across the UK we would not be as strong a voice for small business as we are.
FSB has been modernising over the past few years and those changes can equally be seen in our Blackpoo head office and London and devolved offices – ensuring we have the right professional staff supporting members so we can all deliver FSB’s aims and objectives, helping small businesses achieve their ambitions.
In my second year as Chairman it has been a great pleasure for me to get out and meet as many members as possible. I have travelled the length and breadth of the country – from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, to Pontyclun and Llandudno, as well as Bradford, Durham, Norwich and Torquay, to name a few areas where I have met inspirational members doing great work.
Getting out and about across the country has allowed me to see how FSB is truly a UK-wide organisation and has also shown me the need to modernise our region and branch structure to enable more business owners to get involved and volunteer for FSB. In the last 40 years, our region and branch structure has grown and developed. It has served us well, but it had remained largely unchanged despite the world of business being transformed. The aim of our ‘Refresh programme’ is to ensure FSB’s structure is fit for the future and that we give greater support to members locally on the ground.
I am proud that FSB is a not-for-profit organisation funded by our members, for the benefit of our members, and they continue to set our strategy and participate fully in our work at every stage. Member led remains our own special USP. The changes we have made this last year, including reducing the size of National Council, thus enabling it to be more effective and representative of the wider membership, increasing support staff in the regions and moving towards
a structure which will enable greater participation, will help to ensure FSB members’ views continue to be heard by policymakers at the highest level.