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Gloucestershire Business News

Small firms call for more support as exports tumble

Figures revealing the drop in GDP and exports throughout the pandemic are proof we need to avoid further lockdowns, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

The Office for National Statistics revealed February saw rises in both figures, but they remain well below a year ago - the last full month before before the pandemic.

GDP has dropped 7.8 per cent over the last 12 months with exports down 10.3 per cent.

And FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: "These stark figures are a reminder that this lockdown needs to be the last - better to unlock more slowly than to rush and have a repeat of the damaging chaos suffered in the run-up to last year's critical festive trading season.

"Small business confidence has rebounded but a sizeable share of employers are concerned about redundancies with the job retention scheme winding down over the coming months."

He called on the Government to turn to its build back better agenda and cut non-wage costs to encourage hiring, take steps to tackle the worsening late payment crisis and take innovative approaches to emergency debt.

"Consumer-facing service businesses are shown to be especially hard hit, so it's good that many can now start to trade again across England," he said. "We're urging all shoppers to support local small firms wherever possible over the months ahead.

"UK exports have tumbled since the end of the transition period. While the SME Brexit Support Fund offers some much-needed help to small importers and exporters trying to get their heads around new rules, it's important that it is now promoted effectively so as many eligible firms as possible benefit from its installation.

"A fifth of small exporters have halted sales to the EU temporarily and some have already given up on selling into the bloc on a permanent basis."

He continued: "Unless further action is taken to alleviate the new admin facing exporters, which tend to be our most innovative and profitable firms, we risk losing them.

"Uprating the value of sale threshold at which taxes and tariffs kick in for imports and exports to £1,000 would be the most constructive starting point.

"We also need to see policymakers pulling out all the stops to strike ambitious new trade deals, which include small business chapters, with high-growth economies where there's appetite for UK goods, not least the US."

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