Chancellor urged to help small businesses in spring statement
By James Young | 6th March 2019
The government is being urged to arrest a continued slump in the optimism of small businesses in next week's Spring statement.
The Federation of Small Businesses in the South West are calling for action to arrest the decline, with FSB's quarterly Small Business Index showing a 20 per cent fall in confidence.
Confidence figures across the country are also in decline and a sustained quarter-on-quarter pessimism is a first for the index, which first launched in 2010.
The survey showed as many as seven in ten small firms do not expect to see an improvement in their performance in the next three months.
Brexit uncertainty is weighing heavily on small business, but the domestic economy is the number one barrier to growth, according to two third of those surveyed.
The survey shows seven in ten small firms do not expect their performance to improve in the coming three months with nearly a quarter of firms reporting rising operating costs.
Sam Holliday, the FSB Development manager for Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath, says the figures are very disappointing and must not be ignored by politicians.
Nationally, the proportion of small exporters reporting a decrease in international sales this quarter has also hit a two-and-a-half year high and four in ten say exports are flat.
Sam Holliday, the FSB Development manager for the Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath, said the figures are very disappointing and must not be ignored by politicians.
"The South West used to have some of the most positive set of figures so to see this reverse in confidence is worrying and quite unprecedented," he said.
"MPs seem fixated on Brexit and their own party-political issues at times but they must not take their eye of the domestic business picture.
"Because the SMEs in the South West and beyond are the lifeblood of that economy and when their confidence falls then that should be a concern us all."
The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, will make his spring statement in the Commons a week today and the FSB have written to him to express their view..
They have called on the Government to deliver on the promise to tackle the UK's late payment crisis,as highlighted by the FSB's new #FairPayFairPlay campaign.
They have also urged Mr Hammond to commit to a one-year 'safe harbour' approach to Making Tax Digital-related fines.
The chancellor has also been asked to provide business rates relief for childcare providers in England.
The FSB's National Chairman Mike Cherry said the falling confidence figures should be a "wake-up call for the Treasury."
"We small business owners tend to be an optimistic bunch so the persistence of this current wave of pessimism is unheard of,'' he said.
"Even in the wake of the crash, when the economy was well and truly on the ropes, we didn't see negativity take hold like it has now.
"Small firms still have no idea what regulatory framework they'll be working to in three and a half weeks' time.
"Not only does the political stalemate surrounding Brexit make it impossible to plan, it has also distracted from the domestic policy agenda.
"Next week is the Chancellor's chance to change this."
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