Responding to this year’s Queen’s Speech, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Martin McTague said:
“It was good to hear a pro-enterprise address today, but it’s now time to turn kind words into action.
“Firms need the Government to deliver quickly on levelling-up commitments through plans for devolution, infrastructure investment and regulatory reform.
“To date, a combination of a disappointing Shared Prosperity Fund settlement, rolling back of HS2 plans and withdrawal of the New Enterprise Allowance has left many in target areas feeling underwhelmed.
“Efforts to establish a new infrastructure bank, cement roll-out of gigabit-capable broadband and improve 4G coverage across the UK need to happen swiftly, targeting areas most in need.
“So far, levelling up efforts have been too vague to have any meaningful impact – the time has come for flesh on the bones. As the Government pushes the levelling up agenda over this parliament, it needs to ask itself the questions that matter: Are we genuinely improving high streets? Do community businesses feel empowered to invest and expand? Are we creating enough start-ups to counter the thousands lost over lockdowns?”
Small Business Procurement and Payments
“A worsening late payment crisis is currently threatening the futures of more than 400,000 small firms.
“The Audit Reform Bill creates space to take forward our proposal to make audit committees directly responsible for supply chain practice, thereby moving prompt payment up the corporate environmental, social and governance agenda and alleviating the devastating personal impacts of poor payment practices, which keep thousands of small business owners awake at night.
“Small firms have been waiting for action on this front for three years, whilst poor payment practices worsened over lockdowns. Legislating to make reporting on payment and supply chain practice mandatory in annual reports is the most effective measure at our disposal to spur change.
“Ensuring more small firms can be part of public sector supply chains would be hugely beneficial to local economies, the taxpayer and the quality of public services. The message again is clear: words should be matched by action.”
Regulation and Trade
“We look forward to working with the Government on its bold plans for regulatory reform, which should follow the British Colombia model for goal-setting around reduction of regulation.
“The cementing of free trade agreements with New Zealand and Australia will be cheered by a lot of small exporters, many of which see the two countries as priority markets.
“With the number of small firms that currently export at a two-year low, we’ve put forward proposals for a SME Trade Support Fund which would empower more small businesses to realise the gains of doing business internationally to the benefit of the wider economy.
“The Government is rightly taking forward our recommendations around digitalisation of trade documents.”
Cash, Energy and Costs
“We look forward to working with policymakers on protecting access to cash as part of the new Financial Services Bill, ensuring vulnerable groups can access notes and coins freely, and giving the City regulator a clear mandate where cash is concerned.
“Energy security has rightly moved up the Government’s agenda in recent months. On the ground, we have a situation where small firms are caught between the consumer price cap and the leverage that big corporates can yield when negotiating contracts. More direct financial support is what will make the difference to our members – reducing the risk that further hikes in utility bills feed through to even higher consumer prices – alongside a Help To Green initiative to incentivise on-site energy generation.
“It’s heartening to see previous commitments around business rates reform and fake reviews taken forward today. On the former, we’re urging the Government to go further: increasing the small business rates relief ceiling to £25,000 to take 200,000 more of the smallest community businesses out of this regressive tax altogether, mostly in levelling-up target areas.”
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.