Responding to the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee’s vote to increase the base rate to 1% – which follows the release of ONS figures showing that 16% of microbusinesses are still not currently fully trading, compared to only 3% of big businesses – Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Chair Martin McTague said:
“Small businesses are caught between a rock and a hard place: spiralling operating costs on one side, rising personal and professional debt costs on the other.
“The hope is that today’s move goes some way to putting the brakes on input price inflation in a way that hasn’t been achieved by previous rate rises, mitigating the pain of higher debt repayments.
“When we spoke to members over the first lockdown, the majority were carrying debt, and four in ten were concerned that their debt was now ‘unmanageable’.
“Those with bounce-backs are rightly protected with a fixed rate on those facilities, but a lot of the wider personal and professional loans that small businesses and sole traders hold will move in line with the increase today.
“Consider the electrician who is trying to manage surging fuel prices and the costs of supply chain disruption at work, whilst also being hit by spiralling utility bills and, now, higher mortgage repayments at home.
“Microbusinesses are especially hard-hit by the cost of doing business crisis. Energy costs are particularly difficult to manage, as they are not eligible for the relief offered to consumers, and don’t benefit from the leverage that big businesses can bring to bear. As these new figures show, their fight to bounce back from Covid is that much greater than for a lot of big corporates.
“Those with coronavirus business interruption loans will be feeling particularly apprehensive after today’s increase, which is why we’re urging government to extend Pay As You Grow options to CBILS customers to ease at least one of the mounting pressures they face.
“We’re also encouraging policymakers to look again at our debt for employee equity proposals, giving the minority who are really struggling to repay bounce-backs the option to convert to an employee ownership trust model – protecting livelihoods, improving productivity and protecting taxpayer funds in the process.
“This is a moment for the banks to step up: helping their small business and sole trader customers to manage the effects of rising rates responsibly. Widespread collapse is not good for anyone long-term.”
As the UK’s largest business support group, FSB is the voice of the UK’s small businesses and the self-employed. Established over 40 years ago to help its members succeed in business, FSB is a non-profit making and non-party political organisation that’s led by its members, for its members. As the UK’s leading business campaigner, FSB is focused on delivering change which supports smaller businesses to grow and succeed.
FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including access to finance, business banking, legal advice and support along with a powerful voice in Government. Each year FSB also runs the UK’s Celebrating Small Business Awards. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk. You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy and on Instagram @fsb_uk.