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22 December 2017

Weekly Brief 51 - Friday 22 December 2017

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.  
Changes to auto enrolment will stretch thousands of employers 
National Chairman Mike Cherry reacted to the Government's changes to auto enrolment pensions review, announced at the beginning of the week. He said requiring employers to contribute from the first pound of earnings, will mean that by 2019, hundreds of thousands of small employers will have to pay up to £180 more per employee each year. For employers in certain sectors, such as care, cleaning and hospitality, where margins are tight this will really add up. FSB's spokespeople featured on both BBC and Sky News discussing the impact the changes will have on small firms. 

Bank branch closures 
There must be a thorough and transparent decision-making process over proposed changes that could lead to a cut in the number of cash machines, Mike Cherry said this week. He responded to a letter from Nicky Morgan MP to cash machine network LINK, which has put forward plans to reduce the fee paid by card providers to cash machine operators. He welcomed the intervention by the Treasury Select Committee, adding proposals may result in parts of the cash machine network becoming less viable, and could leave some high streets and villages without access to a cash point.

Businesses held back by poor broadband 
Too many small businesses continue to be held back by poor broadband coverage and slow speeds, according to figures from Ofcom. The annual Connected Nations report shows around 230,000 small firms still cannot access decent broadband (10Mbps), with around 500,000 unable to access superfast broadband, hampering efforts to embrace digital technology to compete and enhance their productivity. FSB's comments featured in the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail
Days later, the Government's decision to roll out a regulatory approach to delivering high speed broadband via a Universal Service Obligation was also announced. FSB welcomed the long-awaited decision and emphasised that progress must be made without delay

Parliamentary mentions 
In a debate on RBS rural branch closures in the House of Commons on Monday, Drew Hendry MP (SNP, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) quoted FSB in calling closures a "hammer blow" for small business. 

In a Westminster Hall debate on social mobility in Wales on Tuesday, Chris Elmore (Lab, Ogmore), who moved the debate, said: "I have talked to the Federation of Small Businesses. Business is vital. We have 250,100 active businesses in Wales with a combined turnover of £117 billion; 95% are micro-businesses employing nine people".

T Level feedback wanted 
The Department for Education is inviting small businesses to attend a free event to hear more about the Industrial Strategy and Careers Strategy. They would like feedback on the new T Levels, open to young people aged 16 to 19 years olds in 15 subject areas where technical training is needed. Events are taking place in Darlington, Manchester, Bridgwater, Norwich and Birmingham throughout January, kicking-off in London on 15th. For further details about these events and to book a place, click here

Flexible Learning Fund available
The Government is providing a new £10m Flexible Learning Fund, supporting projects that aim to design and develop flexible and accessible methods of delivering technical or basic skills to adults. For anyone interested in applying, the Education and Training Foundation will be hosting a series of nine free regional workshops. Full details can be found on the ETF website.