Weekly Brief 9 - 28 February 2020

News 28 Feb 2020

FSB issues advice regarding Covid-19 and responds to the Court of Appeal's decision to declare the third runway at Heathrow Airport 'unlawful'

A wrap of the week's small business news from FSB's Westminster Press, Policy and Public Affairs Office. To sign-up for Weekly Brief emails, please use this link.



FSB has issued advice regarding the Covid-19 virus to help reduce the risk of disruption to you and your business. The advice comes after the total number of confirmed cases in the UK rose to 15, with more cases expected to emerge. It includes information about business insurance, FSB's own health and medical service and the importance of business continuity plans. 

FSB elections
The latest round of elections for FSB Directors will close at 2pm on Thursday 12 March. Winners will be declared and elected at an Annual General Meeting on 16 March. If you have any questions about the process, please contact [email protected]

CASS how to guide
The Current Account Switch Service has issued tailored advice to small business owners to assist with the process of changing banks. Firms with fewer than 50 employees and an annual turnover not exceeding £6.5 million are eligible to use CASS.    

This week the Government confirmed how -off-payroll' rules will apply in the private sector from April (more on that below). To accompany the announcement, it published advice about the changes for clients, workers and contractors. It's also running free live webinars for those effected on 24 and 31 March - you can sign-up on the HMRC website.   


The week began with the publication of FSB's new report, A World of Talent, which argues that a new points-based immigration system can work for small firms if costs are kept down and the right visas are in place. It finds that half of small firms say they cannot meet current costs for non-EU staff, and close four in ten small employers have struggled to recruit the right staff over the past year. Commenting on the findings, Mike Cherry stressed that "it's critical we get this right, especially when timeframes are so tight." The launch was covered by Bloomberg, the Sunday Times, Times, TALK Radio and City AM. 

FSB London's Matt Jaffa appeared on BBC London News to highlight the impact that coronavirus is having on small businesses. 

Tuesday also saw FSB launch its manifesto for the London Mayor ahead of Assembly elections in May. It calls on the next Mayor of London to provide space for small businesses to flourish, and build the environmentally-friendly infrastructure that will allow businesses to thrive.

Responding to new figures from Which? showing that 30,000 calls for cash machines have been made through new -request an ATM' tools, Mike Cherry said that, while cash infrastructure remains critical to the success of millions of small businesses, we also "need to protect the freedoms of small firms. They should be allowed to go cashless if that works for their businesses and customers." His comments were picked-up by the Daily Mirror and Mail. 

Elsewhere, The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) called on the Chancellor to abolish Entrepreneurs' Relief, an incentive which entitles small business owners to a reduced rate of capital gains tax on the proceeds of selling their firms. In a response covered by the Yorkshire Post, Mike Cherry warned that doing so "would destroy the retirements of thousands of business owners over the coming years."

The Court of Appeal ruled that current plans to expand Heathrow Airport are "unlawful" as they do not align with the UK's climate commitments. FSB's Craig Beaumont appeared on BBC News to discuss the verdict, saying the news is a blow to small firms who need greater regional and global connectivity. Later in the day, Mike Cherry spoke about the issue on TalkRadio.

The Government also confirmed that it will switch responsibility for where responsibility for assessing IR35 status from contractor to employer in the private sector from April 2020. The announcement was accompanied by a Government response to an IR35 review it launched last month. Responding to the development, Mike Cherry said, "it's disappointing that the Government has decided to press on with these changes", adding that the review "clearly points to low levels of awareness about April's IR35 changes, ongoing concerns about the reliability of HMRC's tool for checking tax status, and narrow timeframes to prepare for these new rules."   

In Brexit news, Thursday saw the Government release its negotiating objectives for trade talks with the EU. UK officials say they are aiming for a trading relationship with the European Union similar to those the 27-nation bloc has with Canada, Japan and South Korea.

Meanwhile, the Department for International Trade also announced that it is pushing for a dedicated small business chapter in any new trade deal with the US, enabling even more companies to export. The move echoes calls made by FSB in its recent trade report. 

The FSB South West small business awards final also took place. It saw a biscuit manufacturer from Dorset and a cats' café in Bristol crowned the "best in the West."

National Chairman Mike Cherry appeared on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme and Nick Ferrari's LBC breakfast show to discuss Heathrow expansion.

FSB's Alan Soady also appeared on BBC Look East to talk about the impacts of coronavirus has on small businesses. 

On Wednesday, Andrew Griffith MP led a debate in Parliament about business rates, highlighting how the tax hits firms before they've had the chance to make their first £1 in turnover. He said he supports discounts for small businesses, as well as a fundamental review of business rates. The Arundel and South Downs representative also stated that he backs FSB's calls to make gigabit broadband a reality for small businesses by 2025. 

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, met with the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to discuss preparations for the upcoming budget on March 11. 

Peter Aldous (Conservative, Waveney) spoke about FSB during a debate on cash retentions in the Construction sector.

Saqib Bhatti (Conservative, Meridan) spoke about FSB when asking Government to do more to enable SMEs to access Government contracts. 


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